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. Anita in NC


    You have chosen the wrong people to lead your campaign, speak as your surrogates and help you define your path for the USA.

    April 4, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  2. Joe in Southern California

    Thanks CNN for posting my comments.

    April 4, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  3. Angus McDugan

    I am sure there is a wink and nod in there somewhere.

    April 4, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  4. Hilla-burton

    She doesn't support trade agreements with Columbia....as far as I know...

    April 4, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  5. Jim

    Does ANYBODY trust Hillary anymore?

    April 4, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  6. JJ

    She just lost my support, and if we really want a Dem in the White House we need to start pulling together.

    April 4, 2008 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  7. White woman

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

    April 4, 2008 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  8. KHAL houston,Texas

    The sickness of it all.....those Clintons really do have double standards, I have serious questions..for Madam Clinton....?

    April 4, 2008 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  9. shane

    LIes, and the lying liars who tell them.


    April 4, 2008 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  10. kenney

    Hillary,what goes around come back around Obama 08

    April 4, 2008 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  11. Terry, Dallas Texas

    She won't fire him. To do that would look like she made a mistake and we can't have that.

    This woman will do whatever it takes to get elected and that should scare people who are supporting her.

    April 4, 2008 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  12. carmen

    It was just a "mis-meeting"

    April 4, 2008 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  13. jan

    Well first Maggie williams on the board of a predatory lender now Penn lobying for trade deals. Hey Hillary" you can chose your pastor" well you also chose your top advisors. How can you run a country when you can't run a campaign and the people who work for you are shady?

    April 4, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  14. kim

    You might want to correct your story to reflect that it was later reported to be a person from the Clinton campaign that had told the Canadian officials that it would be business as usual,and not someone from the Obama camp.
    Regarding the latest.....I'm not at all surprised.So mush has come out about the Clinton's double dealings that it is to be expected now.

    April 4, 2008 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  15. Mike

    The hypocracy is mind-boggling.

    April 4, 2008 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  16. Andre

    Hillary, what do you really represent?

    April 4, 2008 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  17. John WA

    Also, it turned out it was actually the Clinton camp that was talking to Canada that was intended in the leak. Clinton camp was there too, yet dared to only focus the attention on Obama.

    April 4, 2008 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  18. tonyh

    Billary has no choice but to drop Penn from the campaign if she wants to have her words credited. The ball is on her court now!!!!
    I wonder if there is somebody left who really thinks she and her bunch are not dirty strategists.

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

    I can hardly believe this story....i sure hope it gets coverage to the same degree as the obama chief stratigist meeting canadian officials. Maybe the Obama camp should wait until one week before Pennsilvanya votes, then hammmer this story out, using exactly the same text as Hillary did when she so adeptly brought it out against Obama, which, I think cost him the state.

    April 4, 2008 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  20. clinton muehlenbrock

    So when he went to this meeting, what was hillary's knowledge of his whereabout's?

    April 4, 2008 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  21. Hill

    Hey look everyone, Jeremiah Wright! Jeremiah Wright!!

    /me waves hands vigorously

    April 4, 2008 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  22. CT Yankee

    Since she has soooo much experience dodging bullets lets see how she leverages a plausible excuse for this. She is a lying dirtbag...

    April 4, 2008 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  23. Robert

    I'm an Obama supporter who really doesn't like Hillary but I think this particular story has no teeth. You can't hold a candidate responsible for everything someone on his or her campaing does. He has his own min and his own agenda.

    April 4, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  24. Debby

    CNN has become the Pathetic News Network. They don't want their boy tarnished so they have to match what a Clinton aid did to Obama's.

    We use to love your political coverage in the past years with the Spin Room and Crossfire, but now with the bozo's you have hired like Cafferty, Borger, Toobin and Roland you have become a joke to watch.

    April 4, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  25. Carolyn

    I guess we don't have to "imagine" substituting Clinton's name anymore!

    April 4, 2008 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
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