White House green jobs advocate and special adviser Van Jones has taken months of fire from conservatives for his political past, organizing for income equality, prisoners' rights, and most famously, environmental justice. Now his flirtation with the 9/11 "truther" movement may lead the Obama administration to throw him under the bus.
After a steep rise to political prominence as a green jobs evangelist, Jones joined the Obama administration at the Council on Environmental Quality in March. For weeks on end, FOX News host Glenn Beck had been calling for Jones' scalp—branding him a radical and an "ex-con," among other epithets. And until recently, the biggest knock on the green jobs guru was his assertion that "Republicans are assholes." Jones apologized for that remark—but having led a life that had less to do with running for office than with holding elected officials accountable, it's easy to see how that kind of comment could slip out.
More controversial, however, is the revelation that he signed a petition in 2004 that called for an "immediate inquiry into evidence that suggests high-level government officials may have deliberately allowed the September 11th attacks to occur."
A handful of other prominent activists, including Ralph Nader and Janeane Garafalo, also signed the petition, calling for further disclosures than those contained in the 9/11 commission report—which puts Jones in the company of anti-government zealots and grassy-knoll consipiracy theorists. (When contacted on Friday, Jones declined to comment on the matter.)
I've known Jones for some time, and it's unfortunate that he is having to defend his reputation as a smart and compassionate political mind. The White House seemed to stand by him on Thursday evening, releasing a statement that focused on Jones' work on "clean energy incentives which create 21st century jobs that improve energy efficiency and use renewable resources." But as the fury intensified, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs seemed less enthusiastic about mounting a defense: "He continues to work at the White House," he told reporters on Friday.
It smarts to think of wingnutty men like Glenn Beck getting their way. But should Jones go?
Covers the White House and Washington for The Root. Follow her on Twitter.