Political commentator Van Jones is the latest CNN employee caught on tape by right wing activist James O’Keefe and his Project Veritas. In the video, Jones appears to call the allegations of collusion between the Russian government and the Donald Trump campaign a “nothingburger” and O’Keefe portrays this as a major revelation. However, CNN’s only response to this has been “LOL.”
The video of Jones was released just a day after O’Keefe released a video that showed CNN supervising producer James Bonfield allegedly calling the Russia story “mostly bulls**t right now.” It also comes as the network has been criticized by the Trump administration as “fake news” after it retracted a story about a Trump associate’s ties to Russia that later turned out to be incorrect. Three journalists resigned after the story was pulled.
The 48-year-old Jones is an author and was an advisor for President Barack Obama on green jobs. He’s married to Jana Carter and has two children. You can follow him on Twitter. Jones also hosted CNN’s The Messy Truth town halls in January.
Here’s what you need to know about Jones and the O’Keefe video.
1. Jones Calls the Russia Story a ‘Nothing Burger’ in the Project Veritas Video
In the Project Veritas video, which has been seen over 37,000 times since it was posted, Jones is met by a man on the street who claims to have met Jones in Palm Springs a few years ago. The video doesn’t show if Jones has any idea that he’s being taped.
Jones tells the man, “The Russia thing is just a big nothingburger. There’s nothing you can do.” Another man enters the frame, and the video ends there before we see what else Jones has to say. Instead, O’Keefe recaps what happened in the Bonfield video and notes how white House Deputy Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders suggested people watch the Bonfield video, even though she didn’t know if the video was accurate.
After the video with Bonfield was posted, CNN stood by their producer. “CNN stands by our medical producer John Bonifield. Diversity of personal opinion is what makes CNN strong, we welcome it and embrace it,” CNN said in a statement.
However, The Daily Beast reported that CNN’s only response to the Jones interview was “LOL.”
2. Jones Has Been Critical of Democrats for Obsessing About Russia in the Past
O’Keefe doesn’t mention this in the video, but Jones has been critical of the never-ending coverage of the Russian story in the past and Democrats’ harping on it. In fact, just last week, Jones told his Twitter followers that Democrats are “fooling ourselves if we think something is going to come out of this investigation that’s somehow going to end the Trump presidency and make everything better.”
Jones added, “Unless there’s a real smoking gun, which there’s probably not, it’s going to be a big ol’ mess. Meanwhile, we’re not talking about jobs, not talking about poverty, not talking about solutions, not talking about the addiction crisis. Let’s talk about our stuff.”
Back in January, Jones told Seth Meyers that Russia wasn’t to blame for Hillary Clinton losing to Trump.
“So far, what you hear is: it was the Comey letter, it was the Russians, all this stuff,” Jones told Meyers. “And that’s true. But she was running against an orange nightmare! She should have won by fifty states! I don’t want to hear about the Russians right now. People didn’t feel that we know what it meant to be a coal miner, what it meant to be a Rust Belt worker. So, people didn’t feel the love.”
3. Jones Was President Obama’s Special Advisor on Green Jobs
Jones, a Tennessee native who earned his J.D. at Yale, is the founder of The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and he co-founded Color of Change in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
After Hurricane Katrina, Jones developed an interest in environmentalism, so he started the Green-Collar Jobs Campaign. Green For All followed in 2007. A year later, he published his first book The Green Collar Economy.
Jones’ work as an environmental activist impressed President Obama so much that he joined the White House Council on Environmental Quality as a green jobs advisor. Jones was even called Obama’s “green jobs czar,” which he hated.
“I’m the green-jobs handyman. I’m there to serve,” Jones told the New York Times in 2009. “I’m there to help as a leader in the field of green jobs, which is a new field. I’m happy to come and serve and be helpful, but there’s no such thing as a green-jobs ‘czar.’”
4. Jones Was Criticized by Liberals for Praising Trump’s Salute to a Navy SEAL’s Widow in February
Jones was also the target of liberal critics when he praised President Donald Trump for saluting the widow of Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens during his speech before Congress. He said in that moment, Trump “became president of the United States.”
In an interview with the Associated Press in May, when Jones was announcing a management deal with Jay Z’s Roc Nation, Jones blamed the criticism on raw feelings and clickbait.
“It showed some of the insecurities and anxieties of the liberals who were convinced that if even one pundit said one kind thing about Trump than we’d have Hitler, that everything was at stake, and any kind of nuance was just the road to fascism in America,” Jones told the AP. “When you’re in that kind of mind state, then you jump at a lot of shadows.”
Jones told the AP that the added attention hasn’t made him want to run for politics. “Oh, hell no, because I’ve seen the biggest job up close and it takes people that have a different skill set than I have,” he said.
Next month, Jones starts his We Rise Tour, powered by his #LoveArmy group.
5. Jones Blamed Clinton’s Loss on ‘Data Dummies’ & Said They Set a Billion Dollars ‘on Fire’
During a speech in Chicago earlier this month, Jones ripped into the Clinton campaign, saying they took a billion-dollar war chest and “set it on fire” by not working on getting the vote of white workers and people of color.
“They took a billion dollars, a billion dollars, a billion dollars, and set it on fire, and called it a campaign,” Jones said. “A billion dollars for consultants. A billion dollars for pollsters. A billion dollars for a data operation, that was run by data dummies who couldn’t figure out that maybe people in Michigan needed to be organized.”
Of course, Jones has also been critical of Trump. Before he took office, Jones warned liberals in a Rolling Stone interview that what Trump will do “at a policy level is much much worse than most liberals understand.”
“It’s going to to be counter-revolution from above, against everything we care about – from climate, to women’s rights, to Social Security, to health care,” Jones told Rolling Stone in December. “At the same time, he will do a lot of things, optically, to throw the media off, and to surprise people, and delight people, and entertain people. You’re going to have a lot of bread-and-circuses from Trump. People need to start understanding how this guy operates.”