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Glenn Beck has harshly criticized several appointees in the Obama administration. One of them was Van Jones, known as the "green jobs" czar. (His formal title was special adviser for green jobs, enterprise and innovation at the White House Council on Environmental Quality.) Jones is an environmental activist and author best known for his work promoting renewable energy as a means of creating jobs for low-income people.
Conservative commentators and bloggers criticized Jones because of his past remarks and his involvement with controversial groups. His resignation was announced shortly after midnight on Sept. 6, 2009.
Beck attacked Jones for endorsing a group known as the 9/11 "Truthers," conspiracy theorists who believe that the government deliberately allowed the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in order to promote a militaristic agenda.
Specifically, Beck said, Jones signed a 2004 petition promoted by 911truth.org, which demanded a new investigation into Sept. 11 to answer what the group considered to be unanswered questions about the attacks.
Beck read the names of several celebrities who signed the petition, including the actor Ed Asner, actress and actor/comedian Janeane Garofalo, and Cynthia McKinney, at the time a Democratic congresswoman from Georgia. He then noted that Jones signed as directer of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, a California-based civil rights group Jones directed at the time.
Jones "thinks the Bush administration blew up the World Trade Center and covered it up," Beck said.
Later he added, "Did President Obama know about all of this? . . . As the White House has been silent on this, I can't answer it."
The Obama administration soon issued a statement from Jones, saying that Jones did not agree with the statements on the petition, especially that government officials may have allowed 9/11 to happen. "I do not agree with this statement and it certainly does not reflect my views now or ever," Jones said in the statement.
We reviewed the petition, and its most incendiary language is in the form of hanging questions, such as, "How could Flight 77, which reportedly hit the Pentagon, have flown back towards Washington D.C. for 40 minutes without being detected by the FAA's radar or the even superior radar possessed by the US military?" and "What happened to the over 20 documented warnings given our government by 14 foreign intelligence agencies or heads of state?"
Jones' name is listed on the petition , and he has not disputed that he signed it. Democrats such as Howard Dean said that Jones made a mistake by signing the petition without knowing its complete contents. Since the petition hit the news last week, some signatories have said they were misled about its contents and at least one asked that her name be removed. ( Politico has reported on these disputes in greater detail.)
As fact-checkers, we can't know what Jones thought he was or wasn't signing. We can confirm that Jones is listed as a signatory on the petition. So far, his public statements seem to indicate he signed the petition but was either not in full agreement with some of its implications or didn't know what he was signing. He said, "I do not agree with this statement and it certainly does not reflect my views now or ever."
On one level, the petition is just asking for more investigations. But given the pointed questions it asks, it pretty clearly implies that the Bush administration allowed the terrorist attacks to be executed due to indifference or incompetence, at a minimum. It also states that "people within the current administration may indeed have deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen, perhaps as a pretext for war." Still, Beck pushes the envelope when he says Jones "thinks the Bush administration blew up the World Trade Center and covered it up." The petition doesn't state that definitively. It does ask for investigations. We rate Beck's statement Half True.
UPDATE: A few days after we published this story, Jones name was removed from the petition on the Web site of 911Truth.org. "Following recent media-generated controversy over Obama appointee Van Jones' signature on this Statement, he and two other signatories have requested their names be removed. That has been done," the site noted.
Glenn Beck, comments on Van Jones , Sept. 3, 2009
911Truth.org, Respected Leaders and Families Launch 9/11 Truth Statement Demanding Deeper Investigation into the Events of 9/11 , Oct. 26, 2004
ABC News Political Punch, Another Link Between Top Obama Official and "9/11 Truther" Movement? Source Says No , Sept. 4, 2009
ABC News Political Punch, Controversial Obama Administration Official Denies Being Part of 9/11 "Truther" Movement, Apologizes for Past Comments , Sept. 3, 2009
Politico, Trutherism-lite, and a second Jones tie , Sept. 4, 2009
Little Green Footballs, Truther Document 'Signatories' Say They Were Misled , Sept. 4, 2009
Fox News Sunday, Interview with Howard Dean , Sept. 6, 2009
New Yorker, Greening the Ghetto (Van Jones profile), Jan. 12, 2009
East Bay Express, The New Face of Environmentalism (Van Jones profile), Nov. 2, 2005
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