White House Adviser Van Jones Resigns Amid Controversy Over Past Activism

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White House Adviser Van Jones Resigns Amid Controversy Over Past Activism

Post by FystyAngel on Mon Sep 07, 2009 5:22 pm


Van Jones, pictured at the National Clean Energy Summit 2.0 on August 10 in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)


Updated 2:52 p.m. 9/6/09
By Scott Wilson and Garance Franke-Ruta
White House environmental adviser Van Jones resigned late Saturday after a simmering controversy over his past statements and activism erupted into calls for his ouster from Republican leaders on Friday.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs on Sunday explained the resignation on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," saying, "Van Jones decided was that the agenda of this president was bigger than any one individual." The president does not endorse Jones's past statements and actions, "but he thanks him for his service," Gibbs said.

A White House official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a personnel matter, said Jones's past was not studied as intensively as other advisers because of his relatively low rank.

Jones's position did not require Senate confirmation, so he avoided the kind of vetting Cabinet officials were subjected to. In addition, as an adviser to the Council on Environmental Quality, rather than to Obama directly, his past was not reviewed to the same degree as the more senior "assistants to the president" and other top advisers inside the West Wing.

The result was the revelation of a controversial past that, administration officials acknowledge, caught the White House off guard.

"He was not as thoroughly vetted as other administration officials," the official said. "It's fair to say there were unknowns."

The announcement that Jones was stepping down came minutes after midnight Sunday morning. "On the eve of historic fights for health care and clean energy, opponents of reform have mounted a vicious smear campaign against me," Jones said. "They are using lies and distortions to distract and divide."

He continued: "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."

Jones, who joined the administration in March as special adviser for green jobs at the CEQ, had issued two public apologies in recent days, one for signing a petition in 2004 from the group 911Truth.org that questioned whether Bush administration officials "may indeed have deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen, perhaps as a pretext for war" and the other for using a crude term to describe Republicans in a speech he gave before joining the administration.

His one-time involvement with the Bay Area radical group Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement (STORM), which had Marxist roots, had also become an issue. And on Saturday his advocacy on behalf of death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of shooting a Philadelphia police officer in 1981, threatened to develop into a fresh point of controversy.

Fox News Channel host Glenn Beck launched the drive against Jones and all but declared war on him after a group Jones founded in 2005, ColorofChange.org, led an advertising boycott against Beck's show to protest his claim that Obama is a racist.

Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) called on Jones to resign Friday, saying in a statement, "His extremist views and coarse rhetoric have no place in this administration or the public debate."

Senator Christopher S. Bond (R-Mo.) urged Congress to investigate Jones's "fitness" for the position, writing in an open letter, "Can the American people trust a senior White House official that is so cavalier in his association with such radical and repugnant sentiments?" On Saturday, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, wrote on his Twitter account, "Van Jones has to go."

Jones's resignation was foreshadowed Friday when Gibbs gave only tepid support for him when pressed, saying that Jones "continues to work for the administration." He declined to state that the adviser enjoyed the full support of President Obama, instead referring questions to the environmental council where he worked.

Jones, a towering figure in the environmental movement, had worked for the White House Council on Environmental Quality since March. He was a civil-rights activist in California before turning his focus to environmental and energy issues, and he won wide praise before joining the Obama administration for articulating a broad vision of a green economy Democrats could embrace.

White House adviser David Axelrod, on NBC's "Meet the Press," said Sunday he had not spoken with the president about Jones. "The political environment is rough, and so these things get magnified. But the bottom line is that he showed his commitment to the cause of creating green jobs in this country by removing himself as an issue, and I think that took a great deal of commitment on his part," he said.

On FOX News Sunday, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich declined to criticize Jones directly, though Alexander did question why the Obama administration had appointed so many issue czars.

"I don't think he's the issue," Alexander said. "I think the czars are the issue."

Former Vermont governor Howard Dean rallied to Jones' defense, saying he had signed the controversial 9-11 "Truther" petition by mistake.

"I think he was brought down. It's too bad," Dean said. "I think it's a loss for the country."
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/44/2009/09/06/van_jones_resigns.html?wprss=44

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