April 5th, 2008
12:26 PM ET
12 years ago

Colombia cuts ties with Clinton strategist


[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) - The Colombian government severed ties with Clinton strategist Mark Penn and his public relations firm Saturday, unhappy Penn referred to a recent meeting with the Colombian ambassador as an "error in judgment."

"Mr. Mark Penn, President and CEO of Burson Marsteller, responded to claims by Union representatives who questioned his relationship with the Colombian Government by declaring that it was an 'error in judgment' to meet with his client the Colombian Ambassador on March 31. The Colombian government considers this a lack of respect to Colombians, and finds this response unacceptable," a statement from the Colombian embassy said.

Penn's comments came Friday after it was reported he had met with the Colombian ambassador in his role as CEO of his P.R. firm to promote a free trade agreement with the country that Hillary Clinton has sharply criticized on the campaign trail.

"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," Penn said in a statement.

The meeting, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, occurred Monday. The Colombian Embassy hired Penn's firm in 2007 to help achieve congressional approval of the trade agreement signed in 2006 by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and the Bush administration.

Change to Win, a union federation that has endorsed Barack Obama and represents more than 6 million workers, immediately called on Clinton to fire Penn, saying " It’s time for [her] to send her vaunted ‘chief strategist’ Mark Penn packing - back to his job consulting for union busting corporations and anti-labor governments for good.

On 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."

- CNN's Juan Carlos Lopez, Alex Mooney and Mike Roselli contributed to this report

Filed under: Hillary Clinton
soundoff (341 Responses)
  1. NancyD

    I have to say that this is an exciting time in American history! Years ago, candidates would have gotten away with lying to the American voters and could very easily get away with it. Thank goodness for the internet! Lies show almost immediately – and voters can make more informed decisions!

    April 5, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  2. clarence CC

    Sharon Minnesota April 5th, 2008 12:37 pm ET

    Wow, the chickens come home to roost for Clinton here.

    Wait, there's a big difference with the two stories. The Clinton campaign and Senator Clinton was NOT involved with this event where the Obama campaign and Obama himself was directly involved in the Canadian debacle.

    Can't wait to see the twisted blogs on the CNN websight and /or the CNN bias on this one

    SHARON...You are so right, CNN is going to spin this story as usual. Don't forget CNN is Hillary second home. Give me a break…..!!!!

    April 5, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  3. ClintonNewsNetwork=CNN

    CNN.....Clinton News Networl

    It is amazing, if Obama would have done this it would have been headline news, this shows how the media is Pro Clinton.

    It concerns me that this whole election process is supposed to be about the country, the people, our children (which is our future) and when the media does not make the public more aware of issues like this, it shows a more Bias media that cares more about HRC than this country.

    It makes me wonder if MSM fears the Clinton's.

    CNN I am glad you have it as a ticker but how about making some noise on this issue. Nafta is a measure issue.

    Are we supposed to accept Penn's apology and move on?

    This is a Conspiracy!!!

    April 5, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  4. Aaron - Sarasota

    Sharon Minnesota April 5th, 2008 12:37 pm ET
    "the Obama campaign and Obama himself was directly involved in the Canadian debacle"
    False. It was the Clinton campaign that called the Candians.

    Just another fabrication from the Clinton camp.

    April 5, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  5. Political Jonze

    Typical Hillary. Choking up while giving a speech about MLK and the American worker/poverty while her top strategist is lobbying to sell them out to the Colombians whose solution for pro-union leader is to kill them.

    Liar, Liar, Sniper fire

    April 5, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  6. Parrish

    Now I have been watching Cnn for the past four hours. You know what they keep talking about over and over and over.. About this democratic Radio announcer calling McCain a War Monger. About every 15 minutes they keep repeating this story. Like I tell you. this is bias reporting. they have not once mention this story of Clintons Aid Penn. Not Once in the Past Four Hours. they keep talking about this McCain issue of being a War Monger. Over and Over and Over Again. See Voters. this is a bias news reporting. Anything that has to do with Obama. they will drill it to the ground. but anything with Hillary. they will just let her fly from this. I truly believe Cnn and Msnbc is getting paid off to protect the clintons. Cnn we are watching you. You are Very Bias on your reporting. its making me sick to see this actually happening. REPORT THIS ON PENN. I JUST CANT BELIEVE HOW BIAS YOU ARE.

    April 5, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  7. morningside

    So, Mark Penn got fired by his client when they figured out that he could not influence Hillary Clinton to support their deal.

    I don't get it. What's the story here?

    April 5, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  8. morningside

    To Frank Smith, your time spent saying the rosary, would be better spent supporting the victims of sexual abuse at the hands of predator priests who had no business in the Catholic Church.

    April 5, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  9. Cindy Georgia

    Why is there not much talk about Mark Penn's tie to Blackwater and the Columbians for a Nafta deal?

    He was said to have closed a deal with BOTH this weekend. April 5, 2008

    He is Hillary's campaign manager isn't he? Also, isn't he a LOBBYIST?

    I thought she was NOT doing anything behind closed doors with trading agreements?

    April 5, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  10. Swing State Maniac

    Please Pennsylvania u are a reputed swing state, SWING YOUR VOTE TO BARACK NOW. Enough of Billary's shady deals and cover ups

    April 5, 2008 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  11. Laura Herold

    Go away Hillary. Time to retire. You stumble every time you open your mouth. I personally want a President that I can be proud of...a country to be proud of. Obama can bring it back for us. Think Smart Pennsylvania! Its your turn to rid us of the PAST! Vote Obama!

    April 5, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  12. Texas Momma

    Get used to this, America. This is what we will be dealing with if Hillary becomes President. These are the types of people embedded in her campaign and candidacy. They have an agenda that is far different from what she leads us to believe. She mispeaks, misunderstands, misrepresents, and misfires in order to get away with it. However, after the hundredth time, even your supporters are beginning to question your leadership, Hillary. Bye, bye.

    No More Lies. I am voting Obama.

    April 5, 2008 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  13. Laura Herold

    AND to the blogger that said THANKS MARK PENN...Yeah I second that. Thanks Mark Penn. It was only a matter of time before the true Mark Penn showed up. The guy is a swine.

    April 5, 2008 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  14. Geoff, NH

    I hope all you folks realize that it isn't NAFTA thats stolen so many American jobs, Its the gradually skyrocketing levels of trade with China. If you want to save American jobs, stop buying Chinese-made goods. Incidentally, one of the prime perpetrators of this is Walmart, which HRC served on the board of Directors for. So, what does that tell you?

    April 5, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  15. Rudy

    From the comments on this page, it seems there are an extraordinary amount of misogynists in the USA–and so many misinformed people.

    Obama is just another puppet player–he'll be just like GW Bush in the end– someone who doesn't know what he's doing and in water over his head–he needs to drop out before he screws up the US even more than GW–
    And he's been following the teachings of a preacher who preaches hate. Certainly Obama can't say now after all the YEARS of attending that church that he was never touched by the preacher's words. If he can, then he's a liar for ever pretending to be a good member of his church, and blind for not taking the preacher to task well before he brought him onto his campaign......or is it a case like with GW Bush– he didn't know any better?

    Just don't come crying to me if Obama gets elected and we end up being owned by the rest of the world.

    April 5, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  16. Mike from Austin

    ..... Hillary is leaving this race right after Pennsylvania ..... so let's CHILL .... and not waste our energy ... start calling people in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Indiana ..... let's get them ready for the general election ..... WE're fired up and ready for McBush.

    April 5, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
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