April 8th, 2008
12:47 PM ET
15 years ago

Obama supporter says he needs to clear up NAFTA controversy

(CNN) -
Hillary Clinton’s team has been sending out regular press releases calling on Barack Obama’s economic adviser to join that campaign’s daily conference call and explain his alleged comments to the Canadian government about NAFTA. On Tuesday, a major labor supporter on an official Obama campaign call made the same request – this time, of the candidate himself.

Teamsters President James Hoffa was asked by a reporter what the difference was between recently-demoted Clinton adviser Mark Penn’s meetings with Colombian officials and Austan Goolsbee’s reported remarks to Canadian officials that Obama's campaign trail criticism of the North American Free Trade Agreement was just rhetoric.

Hoffa said the fact that Penn was working on behalf of, and getting compensated by, the Colombians was a major distinction.

Then he called on Obama himself to comment on the Goolsbee controversy – using language that echoed the Clinton campaign’s, said the senator needed to "clarify whatever happened at that meeting."

(LATE UPDATE: Hoffa backtracks, after the jump.)

“I think that he should make a statement. I think that he should basically come up and say what he believes and what he believes he’s going to be advising Barack Obama, and Barack Obama should do the same thing,” said Hoffa. “End this mystery about what happened.”

Obama has responded to questions about his adviser’s actions before, although the details of Goolsbee’s meetings remain controversial. Clinton herself has compared the situations involving Goolsbee and Penn, telling CNN this week Obama needed to "take action," as her campaign had done.

UPDATE: Hoffa released a statement Tuesday afternoon saying he was actually satisfied with Obama's explanation of the Goolsbee meeting.

"To clear up any misunderstanding about my statements, the Obama campaign and Austan Goolsbee have already clarified Professor Goolsbee's meeting with representatives from the Canadian government, and as confirmed by the Canadian government, Sen. Obama's position on NAFTA has not changed. As I said on a conference call with reporters earlier today, Sen. Clinton has a credibility problem with the working men and women across this country on the issue of trade. This problem is only underscored by Mark Penn's continued role in her campaign."

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