The White House announced the resignation of green jobs adviser Van Jones early Sunday morning. In a departure letter, Jones, whose extensive record of radical politics became public in recent weeks, said he was the victim of a “vicious smear campaign” and that “opponents of reform” had used “lies and distortion” against him.
Observers had been predicting Jones' departure after word spread that Jones signed a 2004 petition supporting the so-called “9/11 Truther” movement; that he was a self-professed communist during much of the 1990s; that he supported the cop-killer Mumia abu-Jamal; that in 2008 he accused “white polluters” of “steering poison into the people of color communities”; that he was affiliated with an anti-American publication called “War Times” from 2002 to 2004; that in 2005 he said, “You've never seen a Columbine done by a black child”; and that earlier this year he called Republicans “a–holes.” When controversy erupted, Jones apologized for the “Truther” episode and his remarks about the GOP.
Jones was a favorite of Valerie Jarrett, who is one of President Obama's closest advisers. “We were so delighted to be able to recruit him into the White House,” Jarrett said in August. “We were watching him — really, he's not that old — for as long as he's been active out in Oakland. And all the creative ideas he has.”
In his resignation letter, Jones said he had been “inundated with calls” urging him to “stay and fight,” but he did not want to ask his colleagues in the Obama administration to take time away from their work to defend his record. Here is the text of Jones' letter:
I am resigning my post at the Council on Environmental Quality, effective today.
On the eve of historic fights for health care and clean energy, opponents of reform have mounted a vicious smear campaign against me. They are using lies and distortions to distract and divide.
I have been inundated with calls – from across the political spectrum – urging me to “stay and fight.”
But I came here to fight for others, not for myself. I cannot in good conscience ask my colleagues to expend precious time and energy defending or explaining my past. We need all hands on deck, fighting for the future.
It has been a great honor to serve my country and my President in this capacity. I thank everyone who has offered support and encouragement. I am proud to have been able to make a contribution to the clean energy future. I will continue to do so, in the months and years ahead.
Hired last March, Jones was involved in spending the roughly $80 million in the stimulus package devoted to so-called “green jobs.” Although Jones had long been an advocate for environmentally-friendly jobs, his own task at the White House was somewhat ill-defined. There is no official federal definition of what a “green job” is, nor are there any widely-accepted yardsticks to measure how many “green jobs” might be created and at what cost.
But it was Jones' radical politics that did him in. He left a long trail of statements, many of them on video, covering a variety of hot-button political and racial issues. The controversy over those statements grew slowly at first but snowballed in recent days, and Jones' fate was signaled by the White House on Friday, when spokesman Robert Gibbs declined say that President Obama continued to have confidence in his green jobs adviser.
Coverage of the Jones controversy was a case study of some of the deep divisions within the media. Fox News' Glenn Beck devoted program after program to Jones' past, and a number of conservative blogs were responsible for finding some of Jones' most inflammatory statements. Yet even as the controversy grew — and even after Jones himself apologized for some of his words — several of the nation's top media outlets failed to report the story. As late as Friday, as the Jones matter began to boil over, it had not been reported at all in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the evening newscasts of ABC, CBS, and NBC. Although the Post and CBS went on to report the Jones story on Saturday, the Times did not inform its readers about the Jones matter until after Jones resigned.