From the Fact Check Desk: The Clinton Campaign Misrepresents Clinton NAFTA Meeting

By Jennifer Parker

Mar 21, 2008 5:03pm

I have now talked to three former Clinton Administration officials whom I trust who tell me that then-First Lady Hillary Clinton opposed the idea of introducing NAFTA before health care, but expressed no reservations in public or private about the substance of NAFTA.

Yet the Clinton campaign continues to propagate this myth that she fought NAFTA tooth and nail because she opposed the substance of the bill.The campaign claims over and over that she did not support NAFTA. That may be emotionally and intellectually true — but actions speak louder than misgivings.

On a conference call today, as Ben Smith from Politico details, Clinton campaign spokesman Jay Carson claimed that “in four of the five meetings” about NAFTA on then-First Lady Hillary Clinton’s schedule,  “Sen. Clinton was pushing back.”

Carson says the fifth meeting was the November 10, 1993 pro-NAFTA meeting for businesswomen that we reported on earlier this week, where Clinton was something of the keynote speaker. He says that was just a "drop by" — which is how it was described in her schedule. But people who attended say it was more like she was the headliner.

And the Clinton campaign will not concede that she was advocating for NAFTA in the meeting.

"That’s ludicrous," said Laura E. Jones, executive director of the United States Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel, who was there. "There was no question that everyone who spoke including the First Lady was for NAFTA, it was a rally on behalf of NAFTA to help it get passed. It’s unquestionable. And there are many people out there who were there who remember the incident who work in this industry."

Julia K. Hughes, senior vice president of the same organization is likewise incredulous of the Clinton campaign’s claims.

"This is such a non issue to us, because obviously it was a pro-NAFTA group and a pro-NAFTA event," says Hughes. "It was a 100 percent pro-NAFTA event. No one suggested any inklings of doubt since part of the agenda was to promote enthusiasm for passage of NAFTA."

Did that include then-First Lady Clinton?

"Absolutely. She was the highlight of the event. She was absolutely the capper to the event. It was a positive rally. I assure you if there had even been a hint of waffling from her — because we were in the last days before NAFTA passed and it was a pretty hectic time — we would have freaked out."

It is entirely possible that Clinton opposed NAFTA personally and was just being a good soldier. But that doesn’t change the fact that she helped NAFTA pass, and that at this meeting she was pushing for it.

– jpt

UPDATE: I originally had thought Carson was saying this November 10, 1993, meeting was one of the four in which she was pushing back — my mistake. But the campaign will not concede that this was a meeting where she clearly advocated for NAFTA, so the point is the same, since the two attendees say she very clearly was.

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