April 6th, 2008
04:30 PM ET
8 years ago

Rendell criticizes Penn, hints he should be fired

 Rendell, left, criticized Penn Sunday over his meeting with the Colombian government.

Rendell, left, criticized Penn Sunday over his meeting with the Colombian government.

(CNN) - A key backer of Hillary Clinton's White House bid gave her top strategist Mark Penn a less than ringing endorsement Sunday, following news Penn had met with the Colombian ambassador to promote a free trade agreement the New York senator opposes.

Appearing on NBC's Meet the Press, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell didn't exactly give the longtime Clinton pollster a vote of confidence.

Asked directly if the campaign should cut ties with Penn, Rendell said, "Well there are a lot of issues in which you can raise that question."

"Yeah, I think you've got to make it very clear for someone who is a consultant, who you are representing and who you are not representing and I would hope that Mr. Penn when he talked to the Colombians made that clear," Rendell also said. "And it doesn't sound to me like he did and that's something the campaign should take into question."

Late last week it was reported by the Wall Street Journal that Penn had met with the Colombian ambassador on Monday to promote a free trade agreement that Hillary Clinton has sharply criticized on the campaign trail. Penn's P.R. firm Burson-Marsteller had a contract with Colombia to promote the agreement, though a spokesman for Colombia's president told the paper he didn't know if Penn was representing Clinton or his P.R. firm in the meeting.

On Friday, Penn said he was acting in his role as CEO of Burson-Marsteller and called the meeting a "error in judgment." Upset with that characterization, the Colombian government cut ties with Penn's firm on Saturday.

Filed under: Ed Rendell • Hillary Clinton • Mark Penn
soundoff (275 Responses)
  1. CG

    Penn is a long time member of the Clinton inner circle. Surely, Clinton knows what Penn does for a living, who is clients are, and what his clients want from our government.

    Clinton's rhetoric on how she is going to give special interest the boot if elected president is suspect given Penn's livelihood and his major role in the Clinton campaign. Mark Penn is as much Clinton's Chief Strategist, as he is a highly successful, professional special interest lobbyist.

    Clinton cannot have it both ways: either she is going to represent the people, or she is going to represent the special interests. Given Penn's major role in her campaign, it is pretty clear Clinton has chosen to represent the special interests.

    April 6, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  2. Larry


    April 6, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  3. Charlotte

    NAFTA stands for North Americian Free Trade Agreement. The last time I checked Columbia was in Central America. Mexico,Canada and the United States are in North America. I thought The Obama supporters were suppose to be smart, guess not.

    April 6, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  4. M Penn

    Burson-Marstellar is a PR firm, meaning their primary roll is to manage media perception. So funny that BM is responsible for the single largest media gaffe of this primary campaign. I'm pretty sure his days are numbered with BM... But don't worry about him; with those connections, he'll land a lobbyist position 2 weeks before he gets fired.

    April 6, 2008 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  5. G.N. Penley

    Oh, keep it up Democrats, please. Fire this top aide, continue to rip yourselves apart. You're a great Republican, Mrs. Clinton.

    April 6, 2008 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  6. Rafe

    Please don't fire Penn. He's the genius who snatched certain defeat from certain victory! LOL

    Hillary has mismanaged her campaign, her budget and her staff so badly, there's no doubt left she doesn't deserve the highest office in the land. She doesn't even deserve to be a Senator.

    April 6, 2008 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  7. Bob Lunn North Carolina

    Having worked for over 15 years in the public relations field, Mr. Penn's action do not come as a surprise. Most PR professional are totally into what benefits them the most and to hell with everything else. Senator Clinton, whom I still support, should fire him immediately.

    April 6, 2008 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  8. Marcia Novak PA.

    Rendall is a pupet for the Clintons . He is sucking up to them for a spot in the cabinet if she gets electid. No one in Pa can stand him or the Clintons . We in PA are for Obama . The polls are a joke here in PA. Hillary need to get a fashion designer to give her a make over and her clothes are a laughing her in Pa. THE COUNTRY IS LAUGHING AT HER . sHE NEEDS A big MAKE OVER . i AND MANY OF MY FRIENDS SAID THEY WOULD BE ASHAMED TO GO IN PUBLIC THE WAY SHE DRESSES AND SHE LOOKS REALLY BAD. wE WILL NOT VOTE FOR HER OR mc Cain . She will do the Democratic Party much harm . Its about time the DNC and super delagets stand up to the Clintons and say enough already . What is everyone afraid of? Who is she and Billybob paying off . God help us . Americans do love this country but not under the Clintons . She is a Communist . Wake up . Marcia Pa

    April 6, 2008 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  9. Independent

    Hillary Clinton has been reminding superdelegates for weeks that they are entitled to change their minds about who they support. Gov. Rendell, here's your chance: admit your error, say no to the Clinton's dishonest politics and endorse Barack Obama. Come on, make your move, we are a very forgiving bunch over here.

    Obama '08

    April 6, 2008 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  10. frank rivas

    same old, same old. is that the way the clinton campaign think change is made?

    April 6, 2008 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  11. Mara

    Why has it taken someone close to the Clinton campaign a year to point out that Mark Penn is a liability? Doesn't the fact that he is worldwide CEO of Burson Marsteller, which has represented Blackwater, anti-union groups and Saudi Arabia give them a clue?

    April 6, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  12. jim

    Well- more garbage coming out of the Bil/Hil campaign..
    Pennsylvania needs to wake up and support Barack Obama..
    The Clintons along with the crook Ed Rendall are the dirtiest politicians ever to live on this earth.........
    Every time Hilary-spelled Liar - opens her foul mouth garbage spews out..
    Just watch her on the campaign trail- every day she has a different message with lots of promises that would never even come up for a vote in the Senate let alone go on the the house.
    Wake up Pennsylvania do ur homework--

    April 6, 2008 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  13. Zoinks

    LOL. HRC has foolishly not responded immediately by firing Penn; that said as an Obama supporter I am delighted. This story is going to tear her up. This is going to be a great week!

    April 6, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  14. Florida voter

    PLEASE do NOT let Hillary be the democratic candidate....Please please please!!!!

    Obama we need you!

    April 6, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  15. ne,pa independent

    Rendell's close to Bill Clinton. His wife,Midge, was appointed to a Federal appellate judgeship by Bill Clinton. All part of the Clinton machine.

    April 6, 2008 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  16. Shirley

    I find it very difficult to believe that Senator Clinton was not aware of Mark Penn's involvement with the Columbia trade agreement as this involves high level negotiations. I do believe that Hillary thought the negotiations would go unreported by the news media.

    April 6, 2008 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  17. gerry

    So who did you say you want to answer the red phone at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue at 3 a.m.?

    Is it the one who claims to have all of that experience, having negotiated the peace in Northern Ireland, having ushered in an era of unprecedented propsperity in the 1990's, having stood up to the Chinese Government, having survived deadly sniper fire in Bosnia, clutching with all her maternal instincts to her beloved daughter and Sinbad as they fled an endangered US military plane that was under attack,having heard the heart-breaking story of the unwed mother in Ohio, having fought bravely to hold back tears of anguish.just a few days ago as she remembered Martin Luther King back in her Goldwater Girl Days, and now having her top man Mark Penn meet with the Colombians just weeks after she duped Ohio and Texas with her NAFTA cock-and-bull story?

    And what did maerk Penn jhave to say? "An error of judgment".

    Which is exactly what Obama has been saying.

    Can't we see what's happening here?

    Clinton has goofed and lied her way to what must now be sure defeat. Americans would be foolish in the extreme to elect her, even moreso than having elected Bush twice.Why? Because we are supposed to learn from the past and from our mistakes.We are also supposed to be observant and to learn from what we see and hear other people do, especially people who want to lead us.


    April 6, 2008 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  18. Martin Edwin Andersen

    The fish rots from the head.

    April 6, 2008 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  19. hugo

    Hillary should get rid of Penn and bring on Carvalle. Carvale would make short work of Obama. Good job, Gov. Rendell, for being a strong Clinton-backer. She's the best hope this country has to get back on the track to peace and prosperity. I just donated more $$$$ to her PA campaign. Also, is it my imagination or does Hillary seemed more energized as the campaign goes on and Obama seems a little listless?? I need a president with endurance, not a show pony.

    April 6, 2008 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  20. Michael in Columbus, Ohio

    Can we say confusion

    April 6, 2008 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  21. Erik in PA

    Rendell is a crook and a dirty dirty politician! don't let the media fool you! If this man gets any more power nothing good can come of it

    April 6, 2008 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  22. Dayahka

    Penn should have been fired a long time ago, so this doublespeak situation is just another reason for getting rid of him, but not the main one. The fact, however, that he is still on board shows that the Clintons must have some use for his abrasive and duplicitous behavior.

    April 6, 2008 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  23. Mia

    Hillary's problem with her campaign is that she's the smartest person in the village surrounded by the village idiots.

    If she had intentionally done this, then it has failed miserably. If we can't trust her to put the right people in charge of her campaign, I am less likely to trust her in appointing Supreme Court justices or cabinet members.

    April 6, 2008 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  24. Canadian

    Nsamata, CNN is not biased towards anybody. If you are an active reader of the various blogs and newscast you will realize that Hillary is receiving a huge amount of negative comments. Hillary misspeaks too many times. That her top strategist Mark would go directly to the Columbian Government to lobby for a free trade deal during the campaign is just about incomprehensible. This act would hurt me more than to see my supporter and friend Governor Richardson go to Obama.

    April 6, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  25. gerry

    All this does is show how bad Hillary's judgement is. Burson-Marsteller have contracts with a lot of groups that would make everyone cringe-and HILLARY knows it.

    So why did she go with these guys in the first place? Bad Judgement.

    April 6, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
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