Saturday, November 1st, 2014

Catching up with Van Jones

Van Jones inspects a solar panel on Aug. 11, 2009, at a meeting in Las Vegas.
Van Jones inspects a solar panel on Aug. 11, 2009, at a meeting in Las Vegas.

It's an old adage in politics that if you want to bury news, put it out on Friday at 5 p.m., preferably before a holiday. The Obama administration has taken that advice to a new level: They announced shortly after midnight on the Saturday night of Labor Day weekend that green jobs czar Van Jones would be resigning. The news came so late that some newspapers didn't publish it until Monday morning.

Here at PolitiFact, we started looking into claims about Jones last week but hadn't finished our research. Little did we suspect that events would overtake our efforts so quickly.

An environmental activist, Jones was named special adviser for green jobs, enterprise and innovation at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, a position that does not require Senate confirmation. (See our previous coverage of President Obama's czars .)

Conservative bloggers and commentators including Glenn Beck had argued that Jones was a communist who believed George W. Bush knew about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks ahead of time and allowed it to happen.

Those arguments got more attention after video was posted to the Internet showing Jones speaking at a forum in February in Berkeley, Calif. A progressive activist asked Jones why Republicans seemed better at pushing their legislative agenda through when they had the majority than Democrats are now. "They're a--holes," Jones said. "That's a technical political science term." The audience laughed and applauded.

The video pretty much speaks for itself , so we've looked into the claims that Jones is a communist and what he believes about  the government allowing terrorist attacks to happen, a conspiracy movement whose supporters are sometimes called Truthers.

We looked into two statements from Beck:

• Beck said that Jones signed a petition indicating he "thinks the Bush administration blew up the World Trade Center and covered it up." We found that Jones is listed as a signatory to a 2004 petition calling  for an investigation about the Bush administration's role in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The petition strongly implies a conspiracy, but doesn't state outright that the Bush administration blew up the buildings. Jones has since renounced the petition. We rated Beck's statement Half True .

• Beck repeatedly claimed Jones is an avowed communist. We found that Jones was up front that he was, in fact, a communist for about 10 years. But he ultimately changed his politics and his approach. More recent statements show Jones has tranformed into a cheerleader for eco-entrepreneurs. And so we rated this Beck statement Barely True .