April 4th, 2008
03:00 PM ET
12 years ago

Penn calls trade meeting 'error in judgment'

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/04/04/art.penn.gi.jpg caption="Mark Penn is a chief strategist for the Clinton campaign."](CNN) - Clinton campaign strategist Mark Penn said Friday it was an "error in judgment" for him to meet with the Colombian ambassador to advocate for a free-trade agreement Hillary Clinton has said she opposes.

"The meeting was an error in judgment that will not be repeated and I am sorry for it," Penn said in an issued statement. "The senator's well known opposition to this trade deal is clear and was not discussed."

The meeting, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, occurred Monday. Penn appears to have been acting in his role as chief executive of the international communications and lobbying firm, Burson-Marsteller Worldwide. The Colombian Embassy hired the firm to help achieve congressional approval of a bill allowing free trade with the country - a proposal Clinton has sharply criticized.

Earlier Friday, Clinton spokesperson Mo Elleithee said the New York senator "remains steadfast against the Colombian Trade Bill," and maintained Penn's meeting was "not in any way done on behalf of the campaign."

Clinton has sharply criticized America's free trade agreements as she campaigns for the Democratic presidential nomination, and was particularly critical of rival Barack Obama in February when it was reported that one of his chief foreign policy advisors had suggested to a Canadian official that the Illinois senator was not as anti-free trade as he was claiming to be on the trail.

"I don't think people should come to Ohio and tell the people of Ohio one thing and then have your campaign tell a foreign government something else behind closed doors," Clinton said then. "That's the kind of difference between talk and action and that I've been pointing out in this campaign."

"I would ask you to look at that story, substitute my name for Senator Obama," she also said. "If some of my advisers had been having private meetings with foreign governments and basically saying ignore what I'm saying because it's only political rhetoric ... I think it raises serious questions."

Earlier: Campaign: Penn wasn't representing Clinton in trade meeting

Filed under: Hillary Clinton • Mark Penn
soundoff (304 Responses)
  1. RevGreen

    she's quite familiar w/how free trade works in Columbia.......some never forget Mena.......

    April 4, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  2. mjc

    as a hillary supporter, i think this guy is bad news and she should get rid of him.

    but i'm no campaign runing expert insider, there's just something about him and stories related to him that turn me off.

    April 4, 2008 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  3. Mandy, California

    So, now we can substitute her name there in that story.

    What will she do now?

    April 4, 2008 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  4. Charlotte

    Well, okay then Mrs. Clinton. I guess I have some serious questions for you!!!

    April 4, 2008 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  5. Maurice Jr

    I take Penn's word. Let's not forget Penn has another job besides working for Hillary. No one should be faulted for working hard. This is what this nation is all about. He should have known better though. We all make mistakes and I take his word.

    April 4, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  6. Independent

    It's good to see that the advisors she relies on have the judgment she lacks....oh, wait – this guy's bone head move shows that's not the case.

    April 4, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  7. Jack


    April 4, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  8. Independent

    You are sorry because you GOT CAUGHT! America sees through you Mr. Penn. You are an opportunist – back room dealing. Isn/t that the case of the pot cakking the kettle black??/ Hypoctrite in every sense of the word.

    April 4, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |

    Fire his arse! He's a puke anyway, and has done a horrible job.

    April 4, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  10. Bukky


    April 4, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  11. BKB

    Now isn't that special? Obama fired his strategist for misrepresenting his views to a reporter but Clinton's # 1 is actually making deals contrary to her stated policy and we suppose to look the other way. Hmm.. me doth think the lady protests too much.

    April 4, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  12. Doug, Florida

    HRC as a candidate, Is a error in judgment for the Dem

    April 4, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  13. therealist

    Quid pro quo. Shhhhhhh.....

    April 4, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  14. Wake UP Clintonites

    The hypocrisy continues, after the clintons created and put out of context the Obama Canada connection here they go. i wonder what all you hillary bots have to say about this, will you be hypocritical or see it for what it is, she's a two-faced double crossing hypocrit.

    April 4, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  15. Eric

    Get ready for a new big business owned administration if Clinton is elected. This reeks of Halliburton. These are trade deals she opposes to the public just due to campaigning in places like Indiana and Ohio. She is a firm NAFTA warrior and will sign any pro-globalization anti-American worker law into power. I wonder if any of Penn's companies will benefit once she inks in further trade deals with the blood of American workers? Recession? Get ready for a depression.

    April 4, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  16. Oh! The Irony

    Yes it does raise serious questions Sen. Clinton. Now answer them.

    April 4, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  17. Crazystuff

    You mean to tell me that even the people running her campaign do share her policy views. This is shady on so many levels

    April 4, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  18. Tim

    Hypocrite. Will this hurt her in PA like the Canada thing did for Obama in OH? One can only hope.

    April 4, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  19. Kevin Leo (Jonesboro, GA)

    I can not scream HYPOCRITE loud enough!!!

    Of course, she will go on Letterman or Leno, make a joke about it, and claim she was sleep dprived when this all occured.

    April 4, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  20. Sue

    It does raise serious questions. Just as it was the CLINTON campaign that contacted the Canadian government about NAFTA while finding a way to blame the Obama campaign. She'll find a way to spin this. If that doesn't work, she'll go on Leno and try to laugh her way out of it like she did the Bosnia sniper fire incident. The Clintons continually show a pattern of disrespect not only for all Americans but for our intelligence as well.

    April 4, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  21. Hispanics now for Obama

    Clearly if a strategist of my campaign was falsely representing my campaign and what I stand for, i would fire him. Let's see how well Clinton's judgment is.

    Hill can't seem to control the money in her campaign or her own staff. Not a good example to set for Americans, Hill. 🙁

    April 4, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  22. Tex

    I somehow remember the Hillary campaign criticizing Obama personally because so say one of his surrogates supposedly spoke to a Canadian official on NAFTA. I remember Hillary using that criticism during the election in Ohio to her advantage. Was that a case of "misspeak" then or now?

    Hillary you can't have it both ways! You opened the door to this type of negativity and innuendo. This is a big flub up for Hillary and her campaign. Where's Carville when she needs him to counter attack and blame Obama?

    April 4, 2008 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  23. John

    Only because he got caught!

    April 4, 2008 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  24. ALBO

    HILLARY opposed NAFTA but promoted it when BILL was president

    HILLARY opposes the Colombia deal but spent millions of dollars paying a disastrouos Strategy manager who is allowed to promote such.

    The problem is not NAFTA and other Latin America deals. NAFTA has benefitted all its members. CHINA is the real problem and must be
    restrained from exploiting the GATT without complying with its rules,
    as well as the total lack of sincerity of HILLARY's actions!


    April 4, 2008 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  25. Tired

    Sorry Hillary, I supported you but its getting ridiculous now. I am swicthing to Obama.

    Obama '08

    April 4, 2008 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
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