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Van Jones Draws Support From News Outlets Reluctant to Cover Controversy

Van Jones

Van Jones may be gone from the Obama administration after a long list of questionable remarks and actions forced his resignation, but the former "green jobs" adviser still has the backing of some at The Los Angeles Times and other news outlets that refused to report the original controversy.

And the list of news outlets that ignored the story is a long and lofty one. While FOX News and a few talk radio hosts kept the public informed about Jones' record, most major news outlets, including The New York Times, CNN.com and MSNBC.com, remained silent until nearly the end, when Jones resigned.

Some news outlets and editorialists that lay low are still supporting Jones, including Judith Lewis, a Los Angeles journalist and environmental writer, who wrote in an opinion piece in the L.A. Times on Friday that "Jones' departure is a big loss." 

"He should be judged not by a few missteps but by his long history of working toward a highly desirable but elusive goal: an environmental movement that crosses boundaries of place, skin color and class," Lewis wrote. 

"The takedown of Van Jones was openly orchestrated by Americans for Prosperity, an Arizona-based conservative organization that rallies people who can barely afford to drive a car to the free clinic to press for offshore drilling and oppose health care reform," Lewis added.

The San Francisco Chronicle ran an editorial, called "Joe Wilson, Van Jones and the watermelon hypothesis," which claimed that FOX News commentator Glenn Beck used "fear of blacks" to stir outrage about Jones. 

The editorials are among several pieces written about Jones since Sunday, the day Jones resigned. Prior to that, no stories had appeared in the Los Angeles paper about President Obama's "czar."  The Chronicle, which claims Jones as a hometown son, reported the story on Friday, after the White House commented on the situation.

Most chose to look the other way when a firestorm engulfed Jones last week over a video that surfaced of him calling Republicans "assholes"; an accusation he made that "white polluters and white environmentalists" were "steering poison into people of color communities"; and a petition containing his signature surfaced that demanded an investigation into whether the Bush administration had advance knowledge of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, among others.

The Washington Post offered its first story on Saturday; The New York Times' print edition mentioned it for the first time in its Sunday paper, burying a few paragraphs on the resignation on the inside pages of its late editions. The Times published its first full-length story on Monday, on the front page, under the fold. The newspaper blogged about the furor on Saturday.

New York Times Managing Editor Jill Abramson admitted this week in a Q & A with readers that her newspaper was "a beat behind on this story."

"Why? One reason was that our Washington bureau was somewhat short-staffed during the height of the pre-Labor Day vacation period," she wrote. "This is not an excuse. Another is that despite being a so-called 'czar,' Mr. Jones was not a high-ranking official. Nevertheless, we should have been paying closer attention."

The furor over Jones, a former self-avowed Marxist and anarchist, forced him to apologize twice -- for the name-calling and the petition-signing. But it wasn't enough to contain the damage.

Writing Friday, syndicated columnist and FOX News contributor Charles Krauthammer said the tipping point came over the "truther movement" petition. 

"You can no more have a truther in the White House than you can have a Holocaust denier -- a person who creates a hallucinatory alternative reality in the service of a fathomless malice," Krauthammer wrote.

The White House responded to the growing controversy a week ago without defending Jones. Press secretary  Robert Gibbs said only that Jones continued to work in the administration and asserted that the president didn't agree with his controversial statements.

Yet even after Gibbs' comments, most of the media didn't pay attention.

CBS News on Friday became the first of the three broadcast networks to note the controversy, but ABC's "World News" and "NBC Nightly News" again failed to report the story.  After Jones' midnight resignation over the weekend, all three networks aired the story on their Sunday evening newscasts. 

Since then, CBSNews.com has run an editorial in support of Jones, written by Melissa Harris-Lacewell, an associate professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University, who wrote that Jones stands for "environmental justice."

The controversy has renewed concerns about the White House vetting process. A cursory search of Jones would have revealed some of his most controversial statements, including a speech in 2005 when he injected race into the Columbine massacre, saying that black students don't commit mass school shootings.

Republicans also have taken issue with the number of czars in Obama's administration. The president has named nearly three dozen czars to advise him on topics ranging from the auto industry to foreign affairs. Critics note that czars, unlike Cabinet-level positions, do not require Senate confirmation and therefore are allowed access and influence to the president without the proper checks and balances.

Krauthammer argued that Jones' backers shouldn't worry about his fate. Instead, his ouster could end up being a "great career move. He's gone from marginal loon to liberal martyr. His speaking fees have just doubled. It's only a matter of time before he gets his own show on MSNBC."

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