WASHINGTON -- Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa, a Barack Obama supporter, today called on Obama campaign economic adviser Austan Goolsbee and as well as Obama to "end the mystery" surrounding Goolsbee's meeting with the Canadian Consulate in Chicago.
"End this mystery about what happened," Hoffa said on the conference call with reporters, "I think that he should come out and say it. I don't think that he's going to distance himself but he should clarify what happened in that meeting."
Obama campaign Indiana spokesman Kevin Griffiths quickly chimed in and said that both Goolsbee and the Canadians clarified their meeting, which the campaign believes was "mischaracterized" by the press.
Questions about Goolsbee resurfaced today after Hillary Clinton compared Mark Penn's meeting with the Colombian government to Goolsbee's meeting with Canadian officials. Hoffa said the comparison does not hold because Goolsbee was not paid by the campaign or by the Canadians.
"I think that it's a big difference if somebody is on the payroll that doesn't have enough sense to say that 'my supposedly dearest friend is gonna be against Columbia but I am voting for it.'"
Hoffa said the Teamsters sent a letter to Clinton last spring expressing their concerns over Penn's lobbying activities and that Hoffa has personally called on Clinton to sever all ties with Penn. The union will release the letter later this afternoon.
UPDATE, 2:27pm -- Hoffa released this written statement: "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."