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. machievelli

    You know the old adage,"What a tangled wed we weave when we practice to deceive."

    Senator's condemnation of the Obama camp has come back to haunt her.

    April 4, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  2. DeniseGA

    Robert, maybe not, but when the Colombian officials says, they are not sure what capacity, Penn, was there in, THATS A PROBLEM!

    Politico is reporting this statement: "The spokesman for the Colombian president was unsure if the meeting was in Penn's capacity at Burson or Hillaryland."

    April 4, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  3. Jen-0-palooza

    Hillary Clinton cannot be trusted.
    Bill Clinton cannot be trusted.
    Case closed.
    Obama or McCain will be our next President.
    No more Clinton lies, scandals and misrepresentations for the USA!

    April 4, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |


    April 4, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  5. "Keeping it real"

    Ohio fell for the lies and deceit. We can only hope that Pennsylvania, Indiana, North Carolina, and all the rest will not surcome to this campaign of deceit. Obama got beat the hell up over the NAFTA thing when his advisor went to Canda as a representative of the university he worked for. Mark Penn however was on his job as a trde lobbyist. His sorry alright. Sorry he got caught! I want to see some #^&Z*$@% headlines on this one for days to come! There's a hole lot of explaining to be done here! So lets have it!

    April 4, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  6. cnn rocks

    i am in tears,the deceit is palpable,i wish i could take my vote back,i am so sorry for calling Obama a lier,i will donate to his campaign.
    no more lies no more clintons

    April 4, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  7. CG Houston, TX

    The man who is responsible to get Sen. Clinton into the White House advocates for a trade agreement that Sen. Clinton "claims" to oppose.

    If Sen. Clinton wins, then she will owe Penn big time. Without a doubt she will repay him with a free trade agreement–that's how the Clinton Cabal operates.

    April 4, 2008 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  8. Typica latina n proud

    Right on Wakeup !! Yeah she probably would be sleeping thru the 3am call.
    Ok Hillary folks how much " misspeak " and "erroors in judgement do you have to have for a reality check?
    Do you want a candidate that lies so your kids will do the same?
    Do you want lack of accountablitiy remember she choose Bill and Penn and others ? How about her Johnny Cheung China buddy who contributed lots of $$$ to her campaign for China interest and is in jail now?
    Cure yourselves of the Clintonitus virus once and for all.

    April 4, 2008 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  9. N.S from MO

    the Clintons utilize a trumped up story in order to sway voters in Ohio, but we aren't suppose to pay attention to what her aides do? Wow, sometimes I wonder if anyone in this country has their eyes open...

    April 4, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  10. jdh

    I wonder if Obamabots will actually look at the candidate or forget about powers and just start bashing Hillary. I think Hillary dupporters have the high ground here.

    GO HILLARY!!!!!

    April 4, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  11. DJ

    This is just another gross carriage of injustice by a public official. I was actually hopeful for a double history-making election. However, now I am quite disparaged about certain actions on both sides. But nothing compares to the relentless efforts of piranah of Senator Clinton. Will someone please end this mess before the political shaping and images of young, fresh and new voter minds become politically apathetic?

    April 4, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  12. jer

    Penn when hired it was known that he represented (Burson-Marsteller) one of the largest public relations firms. They have represented Blackwater, predatory lenders and anti-union companies.
    Hillary has a real problem explaining him now that he has shown his cards.

    April 4, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  13. paul mancini

    when is she going to fire this bozo ... the Clinton campaign has been
    a major disappointment and not very effective in handling hot-issues,and staying focus on the real issues at hand for the Country.
    I hold Mr Penn responsible for a poor planning and poor execution,lack of leadership and communication... i also blame
    the Clintons (Hillary&Bill) for surrounding themselves with many
    overwhelmed, self-centered "professional campaign staff" ...what a
    joke her "campaign team" really have become.
    good luck to Mr Penn

    April 4, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  14. Tim

    That was not very smart. This will get plenty of mileage!!!

    April 4, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  15. NY

    Hey if HRC can say she was sleep deprived concerning the Bosnia incident, maybe Mr. Penn will say he was sleepwalking..... LOL

    April 4, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  16. Public eye

    Penn, are you sure you didn't MISPEAK? We're WISE to your LIES Clintons.

    April 4, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  17. Bob B. Austin, TX

    You Obama supporters are some of the most foul-mouthed, name-calling, believe-anything you read, double-standard idiots I've ever had the displeasure of reading. If you think that you are helping your candidate, think again. At this point, I wouldn't vote for a Republican for dog-catcher.... But, you're making it awfully hard to support your candidate , if mine loses.

    April 4, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  18. Jonny

    If the G.O.P. didn't have enough ammunition on the Clinton's before...

    April 4, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  19. rafael

    Hey BILLARY girls, want to talk about helping a girl? where were you when the clintons were destroying Jennifer flowers,Juanita Broderick & Paula Jones? Where was your "girl power" then?

    April 4, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  20. What Really Happend

    If she goes on Jay Leno and make a joke about it it would be ok. Wouldn't it?

    Obama 08

    April 4, 2008 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  21. Joe Pa

    Mark Penn needs to watch his back- last time this happened, they found Vince Foster in Fort Marcy Park with a gunshot in his mouth. And the demoCRAPS want you to think it was a suicide.... Rose Law Firm billing records... hmmmm...

    April 4, 2008 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  22. KitKat

    Get over it. He was not speaking on behalf of the campaign. As a consultant, when I go to a government agencies on behalf of one client, I am only speaking on behalf of that single client.

    This is NOTHING like the Obama campaign telling the Canadain government that Obama's words on NAFTA don't mean anything. That was OBAMA's "TYPICAL" DOUBLE TALK. He is such an anti-American, hypocrite.

    April 4, 2008 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  23. Larry Dickman Des Moines, IA

    what kind of spin are we going to get from this?

    April 4, 2008 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  24. James

    Hillary, your chief strategist doesn't align with your policies. What a contradiction! What does Penn tell Hillary about this NAFTA stuff? That oppose it, but I (Mark Penn) is for it. Superficiality is the hallmark of Hillary's campaign. In this world, what goes round comes round.

    April 4, 2008 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  25. Public eye

    You can hear crickets chirping on the Clinton side of the room.

    April 4, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
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