Van Jones, the "green jobs czar" and West Wing advisor to President Barack Obama, has resigned his post following what he qualified as a "vicious smear campaign" against him by opponents on the right.
Jones, a San Francisco Bay Area activist for environmental and human rights causes, has come under fire for a series of public positions he had taken on a variety of issues. In 1994, Jones' signature appeared on a petition declaring that George W. Bush and Republican administration officials had been aware of a terrorist plot prior to the attacks of September 11, 2001, and had allowed the tragedy to occur as a "pre-text to war." Just last week, a February 2004 video surfaced in which Jones- a Yale graduate and award-winning environmentalist- told a crwod in Berkeley, California, that Republicans were opposed to Barack Obama's agenda for change because they are "a**holes."
Jones also drew negative attention for his comments suggesting that only "white suburban boys" could be capable of a massacre like the one that claimed more than a dozen lives Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999. "You've never seen a Columbine done by a black child. Never. They always say, 'We can't believe it happened here. We can't believe it's these suburban white kids.' It's only them. Now, a black kid might shoot another black kid. He's not going to shoot up the whole school," Jones said in 2005.
On Friday, Jones apologized for his comments. "If I have offended anyone with statements I made in the past," he said, "I apologize." He maintained, however, that he was misled as to the substance of the petition he signed in 2004, and claims that he does not- and never has- believed that 9/11 was a US government conspiracy.
Still, Jones' supporters have taken to the airwaves to defend the man's reputation. Former DNC Chairmand and Governor of Vermont Howard Dean told Fox News Sunday, "This guy is a Yale-educated lawyer, he is a best-selling authority about his specialty...I think he was brought down. It is too bad. Washington is a tough place that way. It is a loss to the country." A video also surfaced from earlier in the year featuring GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, who described herself as a "huge fan" of Jones.
Many Republicans see Jones' resignation as a victory not just in terms of Jones as an individual, but in their ongoing battle against Obama's heavy use of "czars," White House policy advisors who- unlike Cabinet appointees and high departmental officials- do not require Senate confirmation. Some, like Democratic campaign consultant Joe Trippi, worry that Jones's departure may further embolden some on the right to take aim at others in Obama's White House to rid the administration of its highest profile- and in some cases, most effective- leaders.