White House Says Little About Embattled Jones

By Garance Franke-Ruta and Anne E. Kornblut
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, September 5, 2009

White House officials offered tepid support Friday for Van Jones, the administration's embattled energy efficiency guru, who has issued two public apologies this week, one for signing a petition that questioned whether Bush administration officials "may indeed have deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen, perhaps as a pretext for war."

Earlier, Jones said he was "clearly inappropriate" in using a crude term to describe Republicans in a speech he gave before joining the administration.

The apologies did little to quell objections from Republicans, several of whom demanded Friday further action against Jones. Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.) called on the adviser to resign or be fired, saying in a statement, "His extremist views and coarse rhetoric have no place in this administration or the public debate."

Senator Christopher S. Bond (R-Mo.) urged Congress to investigate Jones's "fitness" for the position, writing in an open letter, "Can the American people trust a senior White House official that is so cavalier in his association with such radical and repugnant sentiments?" On Saturday, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), added his voice as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "Van Jones has to go", he wrote on his Twitter account.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Friday that Jones "continues to work for the administration" -- but he did not state that the adviser enjoys the full support of President Obama, instead referring all questions to the environmental council where he works.

Jones, a legendary figure in the environmental movement, has worked for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, as special adviser for green jobs, since March. He was a civil rights activist in California before turning his focus to environmental and energy issues, and he won wide praise before joining the Obama administration for articulating a broad vision of a green economy Democrats could embrace.

Jones often told the story of how he won over Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) during a February 2007 meeting in San Francisco. After other speakers used up all the available time for introductions, Jones recounted, he scrambled to get Pelosi's attention before she headed for the door. Jones promised her that, if she said just four words at the news conference after the meeting, she could ensure the Democrats retained their House majority for two decades.

"Well, what are the four words?" Pelosi asked, according to Jones.

"Clean-energy jobs bill," he replied.

Fox News Channel host Glenn Beck all but declared war on Jones after a group the adviser founded in 2005, ColorofChange.org, led an advertising boycott against Beck's show to protest his claim that Obama is a racist.

But reporters peppered the White House with questions about Jones after the blogger Gateway Pundit reported Thursday that in 2004 Jones had signed a petition circulated by the group 911Truth.org about the 9/11 attacks.

People familiar with the matter said he did not fully read the petition before signing, but the adviser apologized nevertheless on Thursday night.

"In recent days some in the news media have reported on past statements I made before I joined the administration -- some of which were made years ago. If I have offended anyone with statements I made in the past, I apologize. As for the petition that was circulated today, I do not agree with this statement and it certainly does not reflect my views now or ever," Jones said.

Staff writer Juliet Eilperin contributed to this report.

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