The name Van Jones might seem like a hot potato for politicians who may like and respect him but are seeking election to a major post.
Still, Mayor Gavin Newsom has not hesitated to call the former White House adviser and Bay Area activist a friend in at least two recent speeches, including at a conference on renewable energy this morning.
Earlier this month, Jones resigned as President Obama’s specialist for environmentally friendly “green jobs.” He left his post amid controversy regarding his past comments and actions, including his signing of a petition in 2004 in which the group 911Truth.org suggested a government role in the 2001 terror attacks.
That controversy hasn’t stopped Newsom, who is running for governor, from lauding Jones for his past environmental work.
“He’s a good friend,” Newsom said. “I don’t subscribe to every point of view that Van Jones has, but what he was hired to do on the environment, he was doing exceptionally well. If he wasn’t, that’s one thing. But he was.”
Newsom called Jones’ resignation “a big loss for the environmental movement” and said his friend was railroaded by conservative politicians and commentators.
Even so, why mention a controversial figure when you’re running a major statewide campaign and hope to win over some conservative voters?
“You know, I’m just one of those guys,” Newsom said. “Someone is down, so I try to pick them back up.”