In a letter released just after midnight Saturday Jones' resigned saying, "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."
Saying that he came to Washington to "fight for others, not for myself," Jones said in the statement, "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."
Van Jones speaking at the 2009 National Clean Energy Summit, August 2009. (Photo by Center for American Progress Action Fund)
In his position as the so-called "green jobs czar," Jones was responsible for directing administration policy and spending on green jobs programs. Since the White House appointed him, Jones was not subject to confirmation by the U.S. Senate, a fact that rankled Republican critics.
President Barack Obama did not order Jones' resignation, a White House senior adviser said Sunday. "Absolutely not, this was Van Jones' own decision," David Axelrod told NBC's "Meet the Press."
"He is internationally known as an advocate for green jobs and that is the basis on which he was hired," said Axelrod.
"The political environment is rough and these things get magnified," said Axelrod, "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 that took a great deal of commitment on his part."
In 2004, when he was executive director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Jones signed a petition calling for congressional hearings and an investigation by the New York Attorney General into "evidence that suggests high-level government officials may have deliberately allowed the September 11th attacks to occur."
Jones founded the Oakland-based nonprofit group to address criminal-justice issues that affect low-income people of color. A disclaimer states that individuals "signed this statement as an act of their own conscience, not to signify organizational endorsement."
The petition is posted at 911truth.org, a grassroots organization that says its mission is "to expose the official lies and cover-up surrounding the events of September 11th, 2001 in a way that inspires the people to overcome denial and understand the truth; namely, that elements within the US government and covert policy apparatus must have orchestrated or participated in the execution of the attacks for these to have happened in the way that they did."
On October 26, 2004, an alliance of 100 prominent Americans and 40 family members of those killed on 9/11 announced the release of the 911 Truth Statement, a call for immediate inquiry into evidence that suggests high-level government officials may have deliberately allowed the September 11th attacks to occur. The Statement supports an August 31st Zogby poll that found nearly 50% of New Yorkers believe the government had foreknowledge and "consciously failed to act," with 66% wanting a new 9/11 investigation. That is the statement that Jones signed, including a list of questions that have never been officially answered.
In a statement Thursday night, Jones said of "the petition that was circulated today, I do not agree with this statement and it certainly does not reflect my views now or ever."
In response to media questions about Jones' position, the Steering Committee of 911truth.org issued a statement Friday, saying, "As the eighth anniversary of 9/11 approaches, what doesn't make sense to us is that media outlets choose to impugn the character of the signatories rather than carry out your responsibility as watchdogs to call attention to the as yet unanswered questions raised in the 2004 statement."
U.S. Congressman Mike Pence, an Indiana Republican who chairs the House Republican Conference, Friday called for Jones' resignation.
"Given recent revelations concerning the associations and statements of the president's green jobs czar, Van Jones should resign his position and if he is unwilling to do so, the president should demand his resignation. His extremist views and coarse rhetoric have no place in this Administration or the public debate," Said Pence.
U.S. Senator Kit Bond, a Missouri Republican who serves as ranking member of the Green Jobs and the New Economy Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Friday called for a Congressional oversight hearing probing Jones' fitness to do his job.
Jones was also castigated for calling Republican legislators "assholes" on a You Tube video in which he also said, "Barack Obama is not an asshole."
In 2005, Jones was quoted in the "East Bay Express" as describing his radicalization after the acquittals in the Los Angeles Police 1992 beating of Rodney King. "By August, I was a Communist," he says in the article. A later federal trial for violations of King's civil rights found two of the officers guilty and sentenced them to prison. The other two officers were acquitted.
Fox News host Glenn Beck last week attacked Jones on his TV show for all of these points, but did not mention that in 2005 Jones was a co-founder of ColorofChange, the group that is leading an advertiser boycott of Beck's show.
ColorofChange says Beck is on a campaign to convince the American public that President Obama is a racist and his agenda is about serving the needs of Black communities at White people's expense. "It's repulsive, divisive and shouldn't be on the air," the group says on its website.
Forty-seven advertisers have pulled their support for Beck's show, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., CVS Caremark, Clorox and Sprint.
On ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said President Obama does not endorse in any way the things that Jones said and did before he joined the administration, but added that the President thanks Jones "for his service to the country."
In a statement last week, Jones said, "If I have offended anyone with statements I made in the past, I apologize."
See earlier ENS coverage of Van Jones:
Green Revolution, Green Jobs Central to National Clean Energy Summit 2.0
Green For All Founder Joins White House As Green Jobs Advisor
Copyright Environment News Service, ENS, 2009. All rights reserved.