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. Bill

    Watch the time the press spends on this issue and then look at the time they spent on Obama's Canadian contact. There will be a vast difference. Mark my word they won't let this story go since this was Clinton's stragegist. They let Obama's Canadian story go like a hot potato. We heard very little of that in the news.

    April 4, 2008 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  2. Victor Edwards

    Well, Penn is a consummate politician, for he immediately sees the need to jump out here and do some damage control. I won't let it work: he is an anti-labor, union-busting piece of sleaze that ought to cause the Hillary campaign to die a quick death after today. He is the enemy of Pennsylvania's working people [Ohio, too, but it is too late for them to take back their huge mistake] and working people everywhere. This is ten times worse than the Rev. Wright issue. Here is the main decision maker of the campaign who is a union-busting, labor hating [there is violence being committed on union people in Columbia right now] who most surely would have a direct link to the President if Hillary were elected. It is time, USA, to put this trainwreck of a candidate and campaign to rest. Away with Hillary and Penn! Talk of bad judgment – wow.

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

    It was only an error in judgement AFTER he got caught, like Bosnia. Does anybody over there ever tell the truth about anything???

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

    You know how all the Hillary haters are gong to take this. No amount of denying will set them straight. Hillary need to to separate herself from this guy.

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

    Give her a break. She's probably still stressed out from ducking all that SNIPER FIRE.

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

    This is not error in judgment. Penn has been on the Colombian's payroll for over 1 YEAR. He signed the $300,000 deal to lobby the US government for the free trade arrangement in March of '07. How can someone do something for a year and then say it was an error in judgment only AFTER getting caught.

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

    Yes! Is this the end for Hillary and Bill?

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

    To paraphrase Hillary (re. Obama and Rev. Wright), you can't choose your relatives, but you can choose your advisors. And if Penn were my advisor and he was actively promoting views I opposed, I'd go to a different advisor. How about it, Hillary? Are you going to walk your talk - or just talk?

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

    As I've said in previous comments. If it doesn't come out in the wash, it will come out in the rinse!
    Clinton/NAFTA= Mudslide!


    April 4, 2008 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  10. lutisha

    Well Hillary the shoe is now on the other foot how is the fit?

    April 4, 2008 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  11. Sophia

    Pure greed by Mark Penn! This is not the first time he has done something questionable and the Hillary campaign has gotten blame for it.....He needs to go!!!

    How could he do this knowing that she voted against this in the Senate?

    Hillary needs to fire him period.

    April 4, 2008 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  12. William - North Carolina

    Is this the way her presidency will be...with someone else always taking responsibility for the screw ups?

    April 4, 2008 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  13. MP

    Yes it needs to said again.




    April 4, 2008 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  14. Obama welcomes Hillary supporters

    Ouch! Not good for the HRC, not good at all.

    April 4, 2008 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  15. Jeanne

    The Clintons entire campaign is an "error in judgement" so there's no surprise here.

    April 4, 2008 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  16. Corey

    Liar, Liar.....Sniper Fire!

    Obama 08

    April 4, 2008 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  17. Reality

    What type of campaign is Hillary running when her chief strategist doesn't even supporter what she says?????
    Note to Hillary... get people in your camp that have the same views or else it will be difficult to believe anything from you or your camp!!!

    April 4, 2008 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  18. Brian from Chicago

    Talk about irony!

    I don't think people should tell the people one thing and then have your campaign tell a foreign government something else behind closed doors, either.

    That's the kind of similarity between talk and action that we've been noticing in this campaign.

    I didn't think anything was going to top those "30 years of experience / hail of gunfire" stories, but I was wrong!

    April 4, 2008 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  19. Susan R

    Wal-Mart Board person gets caught again!
    She supported NAFTA 100% in 1990's.
    Maybe she mis-spoke again!
    Can she tell us when she is mis-speaking?
    Or maybe that would be a mis-speak.

    April 4, 2008 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  20. Nick

    This is just ridiculous... you people don't understand that that this is COMPLETELY different from Obama's NAFTA blunder.

    If you actually read the article, you would see that it says that Penn was acting in his professional position of the firm he is employed by. It also says that Hillary was NOT discussed.

    Reflect back on Obama's adviser saying that his NAFTA stance was "just campaign rhetoric."

    I see no evidence that such a statement was made here. You people just see what you want to see because you hate Hillary so much.

    All I can tell you is this...keep it up. I am someone who always identifies with the Democratic party, and you have made me certain that I will cast my vote for McCain should Obama win the nomination. You are turning off the very supporters you would need in a general election.

    So, as I say, keep it up.

    April 4, 2008 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  21. After further review,Texas

    Another wheel comes off the wagon.

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


    April 4, 2008 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  23. Mosby

    Just more proof that the Clinton camp is just another corporate vehicle trying to get to the presidency. There's no way we should be electing people who are so clearly just another leg of the corporate monster that has been running the show for years.

    April 4, 2008 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  24. Jeff in Plainfield, IL

    As is evident from some of these comments, many people still believe that it was Obama who contacted the Canadian government regarding NAFTA. PLEASE get the word out that the TRUTH is that it was the CLINTON people, not Obama.

    Pennsylvania, please pay close attention. Hillary tricked Ohio; don't let them "get you" too!

    April 4, 2008 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  25. Len

    She is a Clinton, she ia allowed to lie and we the American Public are expected to look the other way.

    April 4, 2008 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
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