CNN Helps Van Jones With His Comeback Campaign
He left the White House in disgrace only fives months ago, but former Green Jobs Czar Van Jones is getting help from liberal media outlets with his comeback.
On Friday, CNN's Suzanne Malveaux interviewed the controversial figure, and although she asked him some tough questions about his signature at a 9/11 truther website as well as calling Republicans a**holes, her concluding sentiments with "Situation Room" host Wolf Blitzer were an obvious act of cheerleading.
"Van Jones really feels like he took a fall, and he's trying to get back up," she said. "And really, this award, an NAACP Image Award helps him with a second chance."
Her campaign for his renovation continued, "And he's going to be going on to teach at Princeton University. He's going to be also in a liberal think tank based out of Washington."
And continued, "This is really a chance for him to celebrate tonight, he said, and to share this award with people that he admired who have also gotten this award. Muhammad Ali, President Bill Clinton, Condoleezza Rice" (video embedded below the fold with transcript, h/t HotAirPundit):
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: For Van Jones, there is life after the White House, where he once had a reputation for tearing apart opponents, he now says he's all about trying to build bridges.
Our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux traveled to Hollywood to speak to Van Jones. Here is her interview.
VAN JONES, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: I gave a speech at Exeter, and some of the tea party people came to my speech.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You are kidding.
JONES: Yes. And, you know, the guy sit on the front row, and he had Glenn Beck's book right there --
JONES: -- on the front row, like, you know, maddogging me and I started talking. I started talking about American jobs and the future and how we can be one country, and the guy's book starts getting lower and lower and lower, and at the end of the speech, he came up and asked me to sign Glenn Beck's book.
MALVEAUX: You are kidding.
JONES: And you know what I wrote on it?
MALVEAUX: What did you -- what did you write?
JONES: We are one country, Van Jones.
MALVEAUX: Your critics point to a number of things. Let's deal with each one of them point by point.
MALVEAUX: First of all, the petition that you signed in 2004, the 9/11 truthers, and which they call for an investigation of Bush administration officials may indeed have deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen perhaps as a pretext for war. You sign this petition and then you said you never believed in that statement, that it didn't reflect your views. Which is it?
JONES: Well, first of all, just let me be clear what my actual beliefs are. I do believe that 9/11 was a conspiracy by Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda and nobody else to hurt America. That's what I believe.
I learned a tough lesson on this one. I never saw that language, and I never signed anything. A group came up to me at a conference six years ago and they said, "We represent 9/11 families." And I said, "You know, OK. You know, what's going on? How can I be helpful?" They said, "We need your help, will you support our cause?" I said, "Sure."
They then, I did not know their agenda, they then went and put my name on the most abhorrent crazy language, alleging stuff that I don't believe, would never have signed on to, and it just sat there on this obscure Web site for years.
MALVEAUX: They also pointed to a YouTube video when you made a speech shortly before you actually accepted your White House post, when you used an expletive to describe Republicans. But you saw the camera rolling -- and did you think, perhaps, this isn't a good idea, maybe I should curbed my language here?
JONES: Yes. Well, first of all, I -- that was -- that was a horrible mistake on my part. I didn't see the camera, but camera or no camera, you know, sometimes we get into this partisan, you know, kinds of things and trying to be funny and whatever, and, you know, we don't stay true to our true selves.
MALVEAUX: David Axelrod, one of the president's advisers, said that he didn't -- he wasn't aware of these things, and that he probably should have done a better job. One of the other top advisers, Valerie Jarrett, said they have been following you for years and you worked in Oakland and they were very eager to get you to the White House.
Is it hard for you to believe when they say they just had no idea, they didn't know about some of these things?
JONES: I was fully candid, I mean, about my past ,about the ideas that I explored. I was a midlevel White House staffer. I reported to a Senate-confirmed nominee -- midlevel White House staffers go through a vetting process that's very -- a process that's very, very rigorous. But I wasn't a cabinet secretary. I was a worker in the White House.
Some people decided to give me this crazy title of green job czar in the media. I remember it, I came right out and said, "I'm not the green job czar, I'm the green czar jobs handyman."
MALVEAUX: There was somebody, Jeffrey Lorr (ph), he was a speech writer for the Reagan administration and he leveled this criticism saying that the Secret Service on the previous administrations, that they saw your background, that they wouldn't allow you a visitors' pass at the White House, much less the job that you had held.
Do you feel that the White House could have done a better job in vetting you and basically preventing this whole thing from happening?
JONES: I'm somebody who is at -- you know, at the top of my field globally, nationally, with regard to the literature. I was imminently qualified for this position.
MALVEAUX: That weekend before you resigned, it was radio silence at the White House. Did you feel -- did you feel betrayed at all?
JONES: Absolutely not. Nobody told me to resign. I gave my resignation. I said, "I don't want to be a distraction."
MALVEAUX: So you think it was a good thing? I mean, you've learned lessons from this?
JONES: I'm a green guy. So, if you want a healthy plant, you have to have a lot of sunshine and a lot of crap, and they call crap fertilizer. You know, if you put those two things together, you'll get a good strong plant. I have had a lot of sunshine in my life, and I have also had a lot of crap. But you know what? The successes give you that confidence. The setbacks build your character.
MALVEAUX: Tell me how you got involved in the environmental movement. You are obviously a pioneer in this field and you had a friendship with, literally, a tree hugger, if you will, Julia Butterfly Hill who was living in a tree, trying to save it from being chopped down for two years. The two of you used to do lectures together. Was she the one who inspired you?
JONES: Well, you know, first of all, I think everybody has a soft spot for nature somewhere. Not many people wake up in the morning and say, I hate bunnies and trees, you know, like most people are. Most people have a soft spot for nature.
So, I grew up on the edge of a small town. I grew up in the woods. So, I always had that, but it was buried someplace. And actually, it was when I burned out on some of the kind of more angry politics and so I tried to heal myself that I started going to the woods, you know.
And I met Julia Butterfly and I said, "Hold on a second. You got all these kids in urban America, rural America who need job. And we have some important work that needs to be done and what if we connected the two." And it was a revelation to me. We could fight pollution and poverty at the same time.
MALVEAUX: You have no resentment that you lost the White House job?
JONES: I had six great months doing stuff I never got to have a chance to do and it was time for me to go. I got a chance to walk away. And this is America, a land of second chances, the land of getting chances and start over. It's what the whole country is built on, second chances.
BLITZER: And Suzanne is joining us now from Los Angeles. Susan, I take it, he's getting this award you reported earlier on the week. He's getting this major award now from the NAACP. So, I suspect he feels he's going to get a second chance.
MALVEAUX: Well, Wolf, you heard in our interview there, Van Jones really feels like he took a fall, and he's trying to get back up. And really, this award, a NAACP Image Award helps him with a second chance, he told me. And he's going be going on the teach at Princeton University. He's going to be also in a liberal think tank based out of Washington.
This is really a chance for him to celebrate tonight, he said, and to share this award with people that he admired who have also gotten this award. Muhammad Ali, President Bill Clinton, Condoleezza Rice. His family joked that he'll have a chance to meet Beyonce tonight, which is a prize for him he said. But, in all seriousness, he also believes that this really is going to be a fresh start for him -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux, thanks very you for that interview and that report.
The only things missing were some pom poms, a short skirt, and a marching band.
Of course, CNN cheerleading for Jones is nothing new. Readers should recall Howard Kurtz shortly before Jones resigned accusing Fox News's Glenn Beck of going after the czar because of an advertising boycott started by a group with ties to Jones.
Two weeks later, just days after Jones' resignation, Kurtz changed his tune wondering why the media -- with the exception of Fox News and conservative bloggers -- ignored the story for so long.
Exit question: can you imagine a member of the Bush White House getting this kind of treatment five months after being forced to resign in disgrace?