Van Jones resigns

[I’d be happy to forward to Van Jones any comments or words of support people have for him on this painful day.]

Van Jones: building an

I am resigning my post at the Council on Environmental Quality, effective today.

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.

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.

It has been a great honor to serve my country and my President in this capacity. I thank everyone who has offered support and encouragement. I am proud to have been able to make a contribution to the clean energy future. I will continue to do so, in the months and years ahead.

With that statement issued just after midnight Saturday, the White House’s champion of clean energy jobs, Van Jones resigned.  The controversy over past statements was just too great.  The Politico reports:

Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, to which Jones was attached, accepted his resignation in a statement released early Sunday. “Over the last six months, he had been a strong voice for creating jobs that improve energy efficiency and utilize renewable resources,” she said. “We appreciate his hard work and wish him the best moving forward.”

I think the NYT lede in its story is just the kind of drama-driven reporting that has poisoned both media coverage and American politics:

In a victory for Republicans and the Obama administration’s conservative critics, Van Jones resigned as the White House’s environmental jobs “czar” on Saturday.

I suppose this may be seen as a “victory” if you are one of those who have no positive agenda for solving our energy and climate problems — see The Audacity of Nope: The GOP channels Groucho Marx, “Whatever it is, I’m against it.” But how can the paper of record declare this a victory for anyone?  This ain’t the Roman Coliseum.

Ryan Grim, writing at Huffington Post, notes:

During the presidential campaign, Obama repeatedly threw aides overboard who became political liabilities; White House observers saw Jones’ departure more as a matter of when rather than if.

His fate was sealed when Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs declined to defend him at a recent press conference:

QUESTION: Van Jones. I know he has issued an apology for his proctological remarks, but apparently there is also video of him accusing white polluters of poisoning people of color communities. Does the president still have confidence in this guy?

GIBBS: He continues to work in the administration, and I would refer you to the statement that CEQ put out last night about this.


GIBBS: That’s the Council on Environmental Quality

QUESTION: Yeah, but Robert is that as far as you are going to go with this?

GIBBS: That is the statement that has been put out last night.

QUESTION: The stories on television have been pretty offensive.

GIBBS: And I think if you refer to the statement, he apologized.


QUESTION: Van Jones. His name appears on a 2004 petition, demanding to know the truth about 9/11, whether or not the Bush Administration played a role in 9/11 so as to justify a war for oil. He said in his statement yesterday that he doesn’t agree with that, and an administration source said he didn’t fully read it before he signed it, he agreed to have his name signed to it. Now it comes out today that in 2002 he was on an organizing committee for a 9/11 Truther march. Your administration has been very active in knocking down the so-called Birthers, the people who allege without any evidence, and despite all evidence to the contrary, that the president was not born in the United States. How can the administration tolerate somebody who subscribes to a different insane conspiracy theory, as a senior adviser?

GIBBS: Again, it is not something that the president agrees with, and again I would point you to the statement from CEQ.

QUESTION: How many past statements have to emerge before he no longer has the confidence of the president?

GIBBS: A good question for next time.

Words made Van Jones (see Must Read: Van Jones and the English Language), and words brought him down.  A sad day.

42 Responses to Van Jones resigns

  1. Peter Bellin says:

    I agree that this is unfortunate. I think Van Jones offered a vision of a ‘green’ economy, a way to help fight climate change from the ground up. His efforts are a part of a larger struggle we have, and the path has become just a little longer.

    I find it ironic that he was criticized for intemperate remarks about some Republicans, when you consider the level of venom directed at our President by many elected Republican leaders. In fact, the Times lead is correct: I am sure the Republicans view this as a victory. The Republican party daily demonstrates that it puts party first – a victory for the Republican party is more important than measures that improve the lives of the American people.

    Mr. Van Jones: keep up your essential work.

  2. Jeff Huggins says:

    I was very sorry to see the story about Van Jones this morning.

    Be Well, Van Jones. I agree with you that we need “all hands on deck”, and the deck in favor of positive change is a large and (I hope) growing one, and it sounds like you’ll still be on it.

    As for the lede in The New York Times’ story, I agree with you, Joe. Their focus is on the mud bath, the “boxing match”, the drama of the political win-lose, as if that’s most of what matters and as if we don’t have REAL issues to address.

    That sort of stuff actually preserves and FUELS that view of the world and that “us vs. them” approach. You know, sometimes at The New York Times (on Dot Earth, for example), the point is made that a new assessment is being conducted about the human psychological/social factors involved in how we humans “see”, understand, and react to the climate issue and related coverage. The question is sometimes posed, “why don’t people ‘get’ the climate problem?”, and so forth. Or, “is there a magic word that can help people understand?”

    Although I appreciate and enjoy many things on Dot Earth, and I look forward to the light that the human psychological/social sciences can shed on all this (although I wish they had started with that effort about 20 years ago), as Bob Dylan says, you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, and I’ll apply that comment to this: It should ALREADY be clear to The New York Times that by putting headlines in “fight fight” terms, and in win-lose terms, and by highlighting the political boxing match over the substance, they PRESERVE and FUEL that mindset among the public. Period. Simple as that. Their choices matter. And (quite often) they are making poor ones.

    If The New York Times would like to think mainly in terms of V and D (Victory and Defeat), or Ws and Ls (Wins and Losses), then here is a “V” for them to think about:

    It will be a Great “Victory” and “Win” for the Public if The New York Times actually does its job to shine bright and informative light on ExxonMobil and give the public the full straightforward story about ExxonMobil that the public deserves and needs to know.

    Tell us about the One Trillion Pound (Plus) Elephant, please.

    Be Well, Van. See you on deck.

    Cheers for now,


  3. Steve H says:

    Should one choose to read the comments in the Washington Post’s story, we can clearly see that many, many people were led to believe that Van Jones is a communist and that they have successfully purged one from the administration. Rather than offering a robust defense of Mr. Jones, the White House’s anemic deflections will result in this haunting them. It would not have taken much effort to defend, either. When the accusers are making blatant lies about Mr. Jones, such as Sean Hannity calling him a felon, the accusations are easily defended. In fact, Mr. Jones likely has a very good case for obtaining a good deal of money from Rupert Murdoch.

    Anyone who has heard Mr. Jones speak, or dealt with him on a personal level, knows that we, as Americans, are worse off for not having his voice in the President’s ear.

    With regards to the proper response, I hold that a concerted effort should be made by a coalition of groups to target all advertisers of Fox News and Glen Beck’s and Sean Hannity’s radio programs would be appropriate. Color of Change’s effort targeted Beck’s, but its clear that all of Fox News was complicit, as well as Jake Tapper at ABC News. We need to force these organizations to face the reprecussions for actively spreading lies about government officials with the clear goal of weakening the government. We must not allow companies to support these programs, and we cannot let these broadcasters think that they can lie without impunity.

  4. Stan Zaske says:

    We’ve all said and done things in the past that we regret even dumb ass talking heads that race bait and have nothing good to say about solving the nations problems. Best of luck Mr. Jones I’m sure you’ll be fine in whatever your next endeavor is.

  5. paulm says:

    come up to Canada Van.

  6. Frank C. says:

    I’ve seen him speak in the Bay Area, and to Van I would say, this will free you to go back out there and continue this work with even more skill and success now that you’ve seen the inside. And my guess is that you wouldn’t have been happy for too long at this job anyway. There will be plenty of work on the regional, state, and local levels – crucial work that we need done, so get back out there. And tell us when you’re having fun again.

    How many press stories mentioned Dick Cheney’s “go f___ yourself remark,” I wonder? I would guess not too many.

  7. Marc Anderson says:

    Sorry to see Van Jones go, and worried that the political climate is on the same trend line as the global one.

    Keep up the great work Van and Joe.

  8. Joel says:

    This is just awful.

    Everything about this makes clear how dominated our camp has been in debates around environment, injustice, and how our failure to effectively combat conservative vitriol is going to keep losing us our best and brightest if we don’t start organizing a real opposition.

    That Van Jones’ statements on the presence of environmental injustice and, yes folks, racism, could be dismissed so easily is a testament to the tragic disconnect between the mainstream media and mainstream privileged discourse with demonstrable facts. The body of literature documenting environmental racism is extensive and thorough, but apparently it’s controversial to say that our pollution is outsourced to communities of color and low-income communities. Disgusting.

    And from all I’ve read Van Jones wasn’t even aware of the ramifications of the ‘Truther’ petition he was signing. He wasn’t the only one manipulated this way. But where are the calls for resignation from ‘birther’ myth dealers, or the baldfaced lies perpetuated about health care?

    We’d better start getting support in fighting this bullshit soon, because it’s getting more and more destructive every day.

  9. Berbalang says:

    His resignation makes me feel like it was a victory for evil. It seems like the Rightwingnuts can conduct the most outrageous smear campaigns imaginable without being called on it by the media. It is getting old.

  10. john says:

    Van Jones:

    You shall know a man by his enemies — you were hated and hounded by demagogues and hate-mongers. It is a sad day when such ilk can bring down a good man like you.

    Go with your head high and I know you will still be in the fight.

  11. Jeff Waufle says:

    If a self avowed communist is one of the green movements best representatives you are in a world of hurt…

    I (one of the rightwingnuts) is not against the greening of the US, but killing the US economy and pushing millions into poverty in the process is not sustainable.

    Both extreme ends of the party’s need to be ejected. Let’s find some common ground in the middle that sticks to the US Constitution and has principles and values.

  12. Tom Olson says:

    Van Jones — a wonderful leader and great American. May you accomplish even more outside the Administration than you were able to do during your brief but valuable time inside.

  13. I am sorely disappointed that Van Jones was allowed to resign, and that he wasn’t stringently defended. Mr. Jones, I agree with the blogger who wishes you well, and hopes that you will accomplish more outside of the Administration. Very best wishes to you.

  14. Hmpf says:

    Dear American progressives, liberals, Democrats, environmentalists, whatever you identify as:

    please start fighting back – *really* fighting back. Please.

    It’s maddening, watching from over here (Europe) and not really being able to do anything useful. It’s true, we still have a lot of work to do ourselves, too – but I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that one of the most important parts of the global battle for a sustainable society needs to be fought in the U.S. We (the global we) can’t save ourselves without you guys doing your part.

    The Yes Men’s initiative seems like a good idea… Check it out, and sign up (note that there’s a non-arrest-risking option, too!)

  15. Rick says:

    He used words to shock and get attention and came off looking like a narrow racialist at times – or at least was portrayed that way. People like that get pushed to the margins. Obama was more careful with words and has broader approval. As far as core values go, I imagine there isn’t a whole lot difference between Obama and Jones. But words matter and Jones offended too many people.

  16. I have no doubt that Van Jones will be able to renew his work; it is the administration that has been defeated.

  17. K. Nockels says:

    Another good man sacrificed on the altar of Delay and Denial. And the stakes are going up

  18. jcwinnie says:

    Smart fighters save their energy for what’s important. He’s got more important things to do than bandy words with looney tunes.

  19. ZS says:

    That Van Jones’ statements on the presence of environmental injustice and, yes folks, racism, could be dismissed so easily is a testament to the tragic disconnect between the mainstream media and mainstream privileged discourse with demonstrable facts. The body of literature documenting environmental racism is extensive and thorough, but apparently it’s controversial to say that our pollution is outsourced to communities of color and low-income communities. Disgusting.

    Absolutely correct. I see that the revised NYT article on his resignation has removed the sentences that implied that his knowledge of environmental injustice were somehow a bad thing. I guess someone pulled the editor aside and brought up the examples of East St. Louis and Cancer Alley.

    This is a sad day, but anyone who has heard Jones speak should be confident that he’ll continue to be an effective, powerful advocate for a clean energy economy. Keep up the good fight, Mr. Jones.

  20. Dano says:

    What Frank C said.

    The Administration just cannot handle the volume and breadth of the opposition. This is standard politics and the chimp chatter about Socialism and all that cr*p fuels the energy. Sigh.



  21. Mark says:

    Van Jones has been a powerful communicator, calling us to work together to solve the problems before us by focusing on common ground that progressives and conservatives alike should be able to support.

    “Clean air is better than dirty air.”
    “Treating our country’s resources with wisdom and respect is more important than wasting them.”

    It seems the Republicans have decided that if they can’t argue with the message, shot the messenger.

  22. Sameer Ranade says:

    My heart broke this morning when I heard the news that he resigned! It is a reflection of the sad of politics today.

    I wish you well Van. I hope that you are able to move into an awesome career promoting clean energy jobs in the private sector.

    I am pursuing my Masters Degrees in Public Administration at the University of Washington, with a focus on climate change. If there is anything I can do to help you, let me know.

    And thanks for this post, Joe.

  23. Bob Wallace says:

    Van, I hope you hit the ground running and your new place in the effort is very rewarding for you.

    Nothing personal, but I am encouraged by your resignation. It says to me that the Obama administration is determined to get the job done. They could have fought for you, but it would have been a distraction from the main cause.

    It’s like withdrawing Richardson’s cabinet appointment.

    Or dropping end of life counseling from the health care bill.

    Avoid sideline skirmishes that draw resources away from the places they are needed. Concentrate resources in order to win.

  24. Will says:

    Unbelievable that a man as great as Van Jones can be taken down so easily. Ever since I heard his speech at Powershift 09′ I’ve wanted him to run for political office. Indeed a very sad day.

    Joe please tell him for me that I am begging him to remain in the national spotlight. I am 19 and a climate activist, and I look up to Van Jones more than any other figure in this fight.

  25. Jeff Huggins says:

    The Companies Involved

    I agree with Steve H (Comment 3). In these days and times, alas, unfortunately, the necessary way to respond to the companies involved in spreading deceit and confusion is to simply STOP BUYING THEIR PRODUCTS, and tell your friends too.

    I think I have enough context and life experience to assure you of the importance of that point. I’ve been a consultant with McKinsey, an exec at Disney, and I was a Baker Scholar at Harvard. I don’t mention these things to toot my own horn. Instead, I mention them to perhaps give at least some “insider understanding” to this assessment: In the cases of some companies, the only things that will matter to them enough to cause them to “think” and change are revenues, profits, and stock value. So — no joking — stop buying ExxonMobil products, stop buying Fox and News Corp products, and begin to stop buying the products of advertisers on shows like Beck and etc., if you want to be part of the solution.

    To me, this includes The New York Times too. If The New York Times doesn’t get its own act together soon — and give these key topics the prominent and responsible news coverage they call for — then it will soon be time to stop buying The New York Times.

    New media, here we come!



  26. Rick Covert says:

    I am deeply saddened by your resignation Van Jones. You gave me a reason to hope that we, the human race, can pull ourselves from the climatological abyss and create a world free from the threat that the emissions from fossil fuels will create to our planet’s climate.

    It would be a privilege and an honor, if you are willing, if you would agree for me to air you on our local Pacifica Radio affiliate KPFT here in Houston because what you have to say is so important that I think more people, particularly in this city, the city of oil and gas, need to hear.

  27. Jeremy says:

    Mr. Van Jones,

    Watching your speeches all over the internet have truly been an inspiration to me. I has been comforting for me to know that the White House had somebody like you working on the side of climate change and poverty eradication. You will be deeply missed. But please don’t stop your fight. Your message needs to be heard so please keep it up in the civilian world. We are all behind you.


  28. David B. Benson says:

    Dear Mr. Van Jones,

    There is still plenty to be done, and places to do it, to advocate what you know needs advocating. Keep it up and don’t let the bad guys get you down.

    My best regards,
    David B. Benson

  29. Kota says:

    I wish we had two planets. One where people like Van Jones stayed and helped those that want change get the job done as quickly as possible, and one where the opposition to clean energy stayed on theirs and reaped the results.

    That would be just, this is not.

  30. larrysunners says:

    But he created not a single green job. He hasn’t even defined “green” jobs.

    [JR: You don’t know that. You are pesky.]

  31. Bill R says:

    I had the good fortune to see Van Jones speak in Seattle; he had a great vision for making the transition to clean energy one that all people could participate in.

    I hope and know that he will continue to work hard on this vision, whether part of the Obama Administration or not.

  32. Lillie says:

    I only have four things to say, “Van, you will be missed. But, you can still do your valuable work and make a difference through your organization, “Green for All,” Center for American Progress, etc.

    Can’t two play at that “GOP/neocon” game?

    And, Steve H. (Comment #3), I whole-heartedly agree w/you!

  33. Rick Covert says:

    Sorry but I just had to this post from News Hounds that was rich with irony. It seems that Fox also doesn’t think that Van Jones is a radical either or rather their sister company Harper Collins which published his book “The Green Collar Economy” on the need for a green New Deal program for the inner city to lift all economic boats and particularly the poor out of poverty. Here’s what Harper Collins said:

    Van Jones is founding president of Green For All and a senior fellow with the Center for American Progress. He is also a Time Magazine 2008 Environmental Hero, one of Fast Company’s 12 Most Creative Minds of 2008, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Solve Our Two Biggest Problems (HarperOne 2008), which is endorsed by Nancy Pelosi, Tom Daschle, and Al Gore.

    Green For All is a U.S. organization that promotes green-collar jobs and opportunities for the disadvantaged. Its mission is to build an inclusive, green economy—strong enough to resolve the ecological crisis and lift millions of people out of poverty.

    A 1993 Yale Law graduate, Jones is a husband and the father of two small boys. He is a tireless advocate, committed to creating “green pathways out of poverty” and greatly expanding the coalition fighting global warming.

    Awards and Honors

    In 2008, Jones was awarded: one of Essence Magazine’s Influential/Inspiring African Americans of 2008; the Puffin/Nation prize for Creative Citizenship; the Elle magazine…

  34. Richard Brenne says:

    Dear Mr. Van Jones –

    I am as impressed as I can be with the candor, caring and intelligence of your message.

    When opposed by those who oppose needed change, you can say about them what FDR said: “I welcome their hatred.” Everyone who pressed for needed change faced the same. You are in a small club that also includes Frederick Douglas, Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

    Hopefully the hatred directed at you is seen for what it is, hatred of those who care enough about others – especially the least fortunate – to effect change. Spiritual leaders often come to see this as an impersonal and unthinking hatred of good. Hopefully you can even laugh at such nonsense.

    Hopefully also the love of your collaborators and the community that you’re creating more than compensates.

    I put together town meetings around the country with caring speakers including Bill McKibben this week, and I hope to have you join us as a speaker someday.

    By the way, during Harry Reid’s August event at UNLV and despite the eloquence and intelligence of Gore, Clinton and Chu, yours was the voice that rang out most. Keep up your very special work.

    Sincerely, Richard Brenne

  35. lizardo says:

    I was so sad to hear this this morning.

    And of course it’s not a victory for anyone. I do hope some smart people out there snap him up. Maybe at this point he can end up doing more good outside this particular tent. To get done what Obama promised and what we actually need to get done requires more push from outside.

    I hadn’t read his book yet but just added it to my list of books to buy.

  36. lizardo says:

    p.s. Watch out Center for American Progress, no doubt you could be next on the wackos hit list. Corpco and CorpPAC etc want people to get their (flawed and puffed up) analyses from their own pet RW think tanks “this bill will cost your family $2-3000 a year.” I think they polled or focus grouped and found that this was the “real money” magic figure that got people freaked out.

  37. Today is a sad day for America. I am not media addicted, or at least not wired into Fox, CNN, and the 24 hour news cycle, so when I first heard that Van Jones had resigned I thought that perhaps he had tired of waiting for the President to act on his campaign pledge of producing a new green economy and had decided to reenter private life where he could pursue his work in earnest. I guess I was half right. Good luck Mr. Jones, surely anyone with your skills and heartfelt beliefs will continue to do the good work and thank you for that. I am sincerely sorry to see someone with your passion and intelligence hounded out of public life by the lamentable circus that has become our media landscape. I learned of this blogsite today while reading Thomas Friedman’s bracing state of the climate/economy, Hot, Flat, and Crowded, and am glad to have had this outlet to thank you, however indirectly.

    And Joe, you are so right. Health Care is not the most important fight, and I will look forward to your articulation of the four narratives. Having tied his horse to this particular wagon, however, Obama and the Democrats really must deliver a victory or face the spectre of a drastically weakened term in office. The memory of the Congressional results of 1994 now hangs heavily above this administration.

  38. Petro says:

    Obama should start delivering within two months. Otherwise his time for changes is out and he will be remembered as another Jimmy Carter and next president will be Sarah Palin.

    There is no limit for new-born evangelists to destroy everyone opposing their Jesusland-fantasy.

    [JR: Obama ended the Bush depression, cut taxes for 97% of working families, announced the biggest GHG-reducing deal every in the transportation sector, and saved the U.S. clean energy industry. But what has he done for us lately?]

  39. Nancy says:

    The administration was wrong to let Van Jones go. I know he will land on his feet, but in the meantime, I’d like to see him work with Bill McKibben organizing people to attend climate rallies on Oct. 24th and lobby for a Senate climate bill this Fall.

    Van – can you come to the Energy Revolution Rally in Concord, Mass on Oct 24th and be our guest speaker? We need your inspiration.

    Don’t give up the fight, Van!


  40. libhomo says:

    A lot of his critics are calling him Van Johnson. They are just blindly trying to patch together rightist talking points without thinking for themselves.

  41. Dwight Van Winkle says:

    Given what the 9/11 Commission itself is now saying about tortured confessions and CIA obstruction, I do not understand how Mr. Jones could really have a different opinion now.

  42. Dave E says:

    This is indeed a sad day. It seems to me that it is hard to be in the public light and never say anything that you might regret later (i.e. Cheney’s comment referenced in post #6). This is undoubtedly even more true for someone who has probably been subjected to life long indignities/injustices that the conservative republicans cannot even imagine (we may have come a long way since the period depicted in “The Great Debaters” but I expect that poor black communities do in fact have far more difficulty dealing with polluters than affluent white communities). I am a strong supporter of Obama but I do wish he would do more to counter the lies and innuendos being spread by radical conservatives. At this point it seems to me that the democrats should quit attempting to reach over the aisle and need to get on with doing what needs to be done–I can only hope that the republicans loose even more ground in the next election.