April 5th, 2008
12:26 PM ET
11 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. Laidetea

    Oooo Wow, Hillary. You falsely accuse the Obama campaign of giving the so called "wink of the eye" and your campaign strategist is actually having meeting with the Canada Columbians. This is a slap in the face for you. Pack it up after the Pennsylvania primary Hillary. You're threw.

    April 5, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  2. Anna, SW Missouri

    Why is CNN not reporting on the fact that Hillary has once again 'embelished' a story in her speeches that has been proven to be totally false? The New York Times investigated the horror story that Hillary tells of a pregnant woman, uninsured, and denied care, that died and the baby died. The only part that was true was the fact that both the mother and baby died. The following is a quote from the article.

    "The woman, Trina Bachtel, did die last August, two weeks after her baby boy was stillborn at O’Bleness Memorial Hospital in Athens, Ohio. But hospital administrators said Friday that Ms. Bachtel was under the care of an obstetrics practice affiliated with the hospital, that she was never refused treatment and that she was, in fact, insured."

    April 5, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  3. joanne

    what will it take for even the densest Clinton supporter to realize she only banking on your stupidity? they whole world knows she is aexperienced liar, the tie that holds that family together. Money doesn't stink and doesn't care who has it. The Clintons are no benefactors to the poor. Let's face it, you dont get rich by being selfless.....get rid of them, fast....the whole world laughs at them..and us for listening to them and believing their lies while they rip us off.

    April 5, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  4. cnn rocks

    cnn is fair and balanced period,fox news has been downplaying this story,the people of PA deserve the truth,if we elect a liar again after 8yrs of lies then the media is at fault.

    April 5, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  5. Jorge

    She is dishonest and talks double. SHAME ON YOU HILLARY CLINTON !!!

    April 5, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  6. Jane

    There is no reason this should influence the campaign. Nothing is likely to come up anywhere that will top the anti-American rhetoric of Senator Obama's long-time mentor and spiritual advisor, the Rev. Wright. If voters are willing to overlook that, they have no right to make an issue of anything on the other side.

    April 5, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  7. beans bze c.a

    The clinton campaign hurry released her tax returns just to take away the attention on the Mark Penn issue and her poor fund rasing month of $20.

    Did her campaign said it would be released April 15th????

    Her campaign is now a lier just like just like her.

    Get out of the race hillary and save what is left of your integrity and the already scare Clinton name.

    April 5, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  8. Tom

    Hillary need to step down, How did she speak about Obama is nothing but speeches look at Hillary and Bill maken money off speeches we know the true side of the clinton's and CNN is not putting this out about the Clinton probably co share owner of CNN.
    CNN is not the honest media I ever trust.

    April 5, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  9. sayno2clinton, cambridge, MA

    Action louder than words, eh? So did Hillary know her chief campaign strategist worked to undermine her own "claimed policy" and allowed it, or did she never intend to carry out her "policy", or was she fooled by him? Seems she's sticking with him now because she values "loyalty" more than competence or anything else. We know what that leads to...."Brownie" and "Katrina"....ring any bell?

    April 5, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  10. Jane

    Clinton is FINITO!

    April 5, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  11. T Baker

    Why is it that Clinton supporters always go to Wright or that stupid Canada lie when the negative is on Clinton?

    Jonsey – you are ignorant of the working of the church Obama goes to, as you are a liar about Obama 'not liking white people'. .... you saying he doesn't like his MOM? ugh.. the nonsense.....

    This place (CNN comments) has bee overrun by idiots who do not possess the capacity to have intelligent conversations on the facts – instead posting false and ignorant ramblings.

    One of Clinton's TOP ADVISER got caught doing something that COMPLETELY contradicts her message. This is a big story – and it should be given the coverage that it deserves.

    Yet somehow I am sure Clinton robots will continue to try to steer the news away from the truths of her shameful ways.

    April 5, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  12. amanda

    As a Hillary supporter I am so disturbed and ashamed by this. Why hasn't he been fired yet? Why did the Colombians fire him first? She is blowing her opportunity big time. I wish I could come up for an excuse on this one, but I can't.

    April 5, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  13. Rhonda

    Add this to the fact that the story she's telling about the pregnant mother and her baby dying because the mother did not have $100 so the hospital would not take care of her–is another fabrication–CAN HILLARY TELL THE TRUTH??

    April 5, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  14. Wrong Finger

    Mr. Penn should have raised the other finger

    April 5, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  15. Brian

    How much more do the American people, voting for another Clinton, need to know before they come to the realization that this is not a person that can withstand a Republican onslaught/swiftboat.527?????
    Too much has come to light over the last month alone to prove the loss to the Democratic Party if she is the candidate.
    Her lies regarding experience, backing NAFTA and now this....add that to the charitable tax breaks they took while keeping those same millions under their control and not actually helping anyone gives lie to her comments to the poor that she feels their pain......
    Mark Penn is just another nail in her coffin that is only staying above ground based on her pleas of poor me, send more money.
    I hope that the people in PA, NC and IN are paying attention. The future of our country is in their hands.

    April 5, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  16. NBC

    anyone that can support her now is either uniformed, or has blinders on........oh, no! they can't, they see Obama is black. And although the political veiws are the same they're gonna jumb the fence for McCain.....talk about race and gender. We got a whole bunch of closet white reverend Wrights out there.

    April 5, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  17. White folks please coming from a white man

    Here we go again with all the Hillary Lies. The list goes on, please add.
    A.) Lack of Experience
    B.) Lack of judgment
    C.) The snipers
    D.) The NAFTA Lies
    E.) The pictures of Obama visiting his father
    F.) The Rev. White
    G.) Dirty Campaign
    H.) Michigan and Florida votes wouldn't matter in 2007

    please add to the list

    April 5, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  18. Oregon is Obama

    No matter how you cut it , the Clintons have always been in bed with shady people. They are the last thing this country needs.

    Hillary can not be trusted , she is busted for a new lie every day it seems. I don't know about the rest of you , but i am so done with a President that looks the American people in the eyes and LIES with a smile on there face.

    Hillary is just another George Bush. ( NO THANK YOU )

    April 5, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  19. cathy wilke

    Why has not mentioned hillary,s lie about the woman who died in an ohio hospital along with her unborn baby because she had no insurance?The hospital says it is not true.

    April 5, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  20. Peg

    Josey...I really don't know where to start with your post. it is wrong on so many different levels...are you trying to say Sen. Obama hates his OWN Mother? Its people like you that keep up the hate between the races, and convinces Rev. Wright that he is RIGHT. Please stop with the hate speech. And by the way, I am bi-racial just like Obama, and I do not hate anyone black or white. How could I? Just like Obama, that would be hating myself.

    April 5, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  21. Terrence from NC

    3 words : "CRASH AND BURN". Rocky loses to Obama Creed. LOL

    April 5, 2008 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  22. A.M. Saqib

    One more mistake in judgement; yet Hillary Clinton still proud of her '3:00 A.M.' phone call. The one who has no idea as to what a power of the correct judgement is.

    'Obama' a perfect choice for 08.

    A.M. Saqib
    Houston, Texas

    April 5, 2008 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  23. MiddleRoad

    If she hadn't pounded on Obama over the NAFTA thing while she was secretly talking to the Canadian government herself, she may have been able to spin this. Now all that sanctimony is coming back to haunt her

    April 5, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  24. Ed from Indiana

    It's integrity time folks. If you can't trust them in the campaign, do you really think you can trust them in the White House? Aren't we tired of being lied to yet? I for one am. How in the world can you defend this obvious breach of trust? And please get it right people. Hillary is the one that "double dealed" in Canada, not Obama. That's just another Clinton lie that you fell for. Don't trust me... check it out for yourself. As Bush would say...do the google.

    When you condone the breach of truth knowingly you become part of the lie. Don't support these kind of people and you've begun the change that this system so sorely needs. Stand up for your right to be informed responsibly.

    April 5, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  25. nate

    They had to cut ties w/ HIM??? " The Colombian government considers this a lack of respect to Colombians"... Is this how HIllary will handle her international affairs? Seriously, have you ever seen a campaign run this badly?

    April 5, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
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