Last month, Fox News’ Glenn Beck engaged in a character assassination campaign to demonize White House environmental adviser Van Jones as “a committed revolutionary” that led to Jones’ resignation over the weekend. The conventional wisdom was that Beck took aim at Jones because a group he co-founded, Color of Change, was successfully convincing advertisers to drop Beck’s show after he claimed President Obama had “a deep-seated hatred for white people.” Though Beck’s attacks became “especially pronounced” after the boycott started, he actually began his attacks against Jones before he even uttered the words that sparked the activist campaign against him.
As Adele Stan and Joe Romm have both noted, on Sunday, Phil Kerpen, the policy director for the industry front group American for Prosperity, took credit for starting the assault on Jones. Kerpen wrote that on July 10, he e-mailed an old profile of Jones to a producer for Beck’s show, saying “Please share with Glenn this article about green jobs czar Van Jones, a self-described communist who was radicalized in jail. Confirms ‘watermelon’ hypothesis.”
After that, Beck attacked Jones in 16 episodes of his Fox News show between July 23 and September 4, including five where he hosted Kerpen to help him:
— KERPEN: So, it’s kind of — Van Jones, who you mentioned, the self-described communist who is now green jobs czar, he described the Apollo Alliance mission as sort of a grand unified field theory for progressive left causes that ties all these things together. [Fox News, 7/28/09]
— BECK: [Van Jones] is the avowed communist. He was into social justice, which — help me out — social justice basically is just code word for.
KERPEN: …taking money from someone and giving it to somebody else. [Fox News, 8/4/09]
— KERPEN: So, it’s kind of — Van Jones, who you mentioned, the self-described communist who is now green jobs czar, he described the Apollo Alliance mission as sort of a grand unified field theory for progressive left causes. It ties all these things together. [Fox News, 8/21/09 — replay of 7/28 appearance]
— KERPEN: The inside here with Apollo and Van Jones and so on is that if you raid the U.S. Treasury and you take all these money and use it to subsidize these so-called green jobs and make them union jobs, give money to the social justice street organizers and so on, you can get every one of these leftist constituencies on the same side with taxpayers on the other side. [Fox News, 8/24/09]
— KERPEN: Hey, Glenn.
BECK: I wanted to bring you here because I want to show you what’s on the other side of the board and I need you to help draw this together, because I think this is stunning. We have Van Jones. We tied yesterday — tied him together with — right directly to Obama and right directly to the Apollo Alliance. [8/25/09]
In his Fox Forum op-ed, Kerpen explained that his real mission is to put the “‘green jobs’ concept outside the bounds of the political mainstream.” In his Sept. 7 podcast, Kerpen declared, “Van Jones is gone, but the ‘green jobs’ threat remains,” adding that the right-wing should “channel all of the energy” of Jones’ resignation towards “defeating the policy program that he stands for.” Listen here:
When Kerpen first contacted Beck about Jones, he said that it “confirms ‘watermelon’ hypothesis,” which Dave Weigel notes is the effort of conservatives “to paint environmental activists like Jones as anti-capitalist radicals less interested in the health of the planet than in a well-disguised radical agenda.” In fact, on the June 26 episode of Beck’s show, Kerpen and Beck discussed the idea, saying that cap and trade “is green on the outside, the thinnest green on the outside. And inside, it’s deep communist red.”
For months now, much of the right-wing has been galvanized around mocking and attacking green jobs, calling them “paper mché,” “subprime,” and “gangrene.” GOP leaders, Fox News, right-wing columnists, conservative think tanks, and Big Oil front groups have all attacked the concept by citing a paper by Exxon-funded libertarian Gabriel Calzada, which was recently eviscerated by the Department of Energy as “not supported by their work.”