Glenn Beck Is Still Smearing Van Jones, Even After Jones Takes High Road Preaching 'Love' for Fox Host
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America's only prop commentator then produced a large watermelon from under his desk and cut it in half to illustrate the point.
Kerpen's July 9 memo provided Beck with the missing piece to the complete metaphor: the seeds of "black nationalism." Beck waited two weeks before using Kerpen's initial info dump. Once Beck began his attack, he was tenacious. He went after Jones almost daily, repeating the facts of his former radicalism and describing him each time as a "self-avowed" communist in the present tense. Between July 23 and Van Jones' resignation on September 5, Van Jones garnered 267 mentions on Glenn Beck —more than anyone else, and 227 more than Osama bin Laden. Beck played and replayed audio and video recordings that he said proved Jones had not changed since his days in STORM. He frequently played a clip of Jones describing green jobs as a way to "change the system."
But Beck's summer-long multimedia campaign was built on several large lies. When the White House tapped Jones to advise on green jobs, he was neither a communist nor a black nationalist. Beck also twisted and then disregarded the known facts of Jones' 1992 arrest. He said that Jones had been arrested for participation in the 1992 Los Angeles riots and was a "convicted felon." Both claims were false. The easily accessible truth was that Jones was arrested while working as a volunteer legal monitor during a protest in San Francisco. After weeks of repeating the smear, Beck corrected himself on Jones' involvement in the Rodney King riots. But he never mentioned the fact that after an investigation and a hearing, the state of California dropped all charges against Jones, declared his arrest unlawful, and awarded him a settlement.
The racial undertones of Beck's campaign against Jones were present from the start. The host introduced the green jobs czar not as part of a discussion of his actual portfolio, but in a wild blaze of innuendo over an extremely marginal political movement—black nationalism—with which Jones had no affiliation. At other times the racial innuendo was farther beneath the surface. As he ran down what became a familiar list, Beck frequently mentioned Jones' support for Mumia Abu-Jamal, who Beck described as a "cop killer." As with Jones' own arrest, however, Beck failed to address the known controversy surrounding Abu-Jamal's death sentence. Beck also exaggerated the radicalism of Jones' opposition to this sentence, which is shared by a long list of others, including Nelson Mandela, Amnesty International, and the NAACP.
Beck also attacked Jones for simply describing the fundamental premise of the environmental justice movement. One of Beck's favorite pieces of evidence in his case was an interview Jones gave as the head of the Ella Baker Center, in which Jones explained, "The white polluters and the white environmentalists are essentially steering poison into the people of colored communities." The extent to which this is true is debatable—indeed, the environmental justice movement has been heavily criticized by some in the progressive community, most notably by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus—but it's hardly outside the boundaries of mainstream political discourse. It was a Republican president, George H. W. Bush, who created the Office of Environmental Justice in the Environmental Protection Agency. The Clinton administration extended Bush's interest, issuing an executive order that directed federal agencies to study how pollution from industrial projects disproportionately affects poor communities of color. Moreover, there is a vast literature on the environmental justice movement created over twenty years that Beck could have referenced, had he been interested in the subject.
Instead, the host repeatedly doubled down on his ignorance. Never was this more glaring or abhorrent than during the September 1 edition of The Glenn Beck Program . This was when Beck dismissed Jones' comments about environmental racism by comparing them to what he considered another black urban legend: The Tuskegee Syphilis Study. He followed a Jones audio clip with one of Jeremiah Wright stating a simple, uncontested fact of American history: "The government lied about the Tuskegee experiment." For most Americans, the Tuskegee experiment —a 40-year clinical study conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service in which black subjects with syphilis were experimented on and allowed to die even after the discovery of penicillin—is shameful chapter in black America's long and frequently nonconsensual relationship with experimental medicine, one that does much to explain the lingering anger and suspicions of a generation of African-Americans, including Jeremiah Wright.