We ask signatories of the statement that helped drive Van Jones from office if they stand by it. Updated
By Vincent Rossmeier
- 9/11 Truth movement, Van Jones is no longer a member of the Obama White House. Jones resigned last week amid a swirl of controversy -- prodded on largely by Fox News' Glenn Beck -- that included the former "green jobs" advisor's signing of a petition put out by the 9/11 Truth movement urging a further investigation into the World Trade Center attacks. Most controversially, the petition wondered darkly that "unanswered questions ... suggest that people within the current administration may indeed have deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen, perhaps as a pretext for war," before drifting into a list of wild and dubious speculation. (You can read the petition right here.)
Initially, Jones said that he hadn't fully reviewed the statement before he signed. But that didn't stop the onslaught of bad publicity that ultimately led to his exit.
The statement was released in October 2004 and has been signed by nearly 200 people, including many relatives of those who lost someone in the attacks. It called for an investigation into 9/11 but also directly questioned the government's conclusions about the plane crashes.
In the wake of Jones' departure, Politico's Ben Smith contacted two other signatories of the statement, Rabbi Michael Lerner and historian Howard Zinn. Smith found that both men felt they had signed a petition of more limited scope than the one that appears at the 9/11 Truth Web site, one that asked only for an investigation into the attacks and not one questioning President Bush's prior knowledge of 9/11.
Salon contacted nearly 30 of the petition's signatories to see if they felt, as did Lerner, Zinn and Jones, that the document didn't reflect their views on 9/11. We asked a simple question: If you had to do it all over again, would you still sign the statement?
Salon has not heard back from two of the statement's most famous signatories: actor Ed Asner and comedian Janeane Garofalo. (Updated: We have received and added Asner's response to the list below.) But many did respond and most -- though not all -- expressed their full-fledged support for the petition. Their responses are below:
Ed Asner (through his company, Quince Productions): Mr. Asner would sign the petition again without the slightest hesitation.
Gray Brechin, historical geographer and visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Department of Geography: Until recently, I thought that I (like Van Jones) live in a country with a First Amendment that permits freedom of speech, thought and petition without fear of reprisal. I had that pleasant illusion despite growing up in the dark shadow of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, of red scares, blacklists and witch hunts, of the John Birch Society (and worse), which the Old Guard of the Republican Party then considered zanies. The ideological descendants of those wackos have since taken over that party. I suspect that you did not grow up at that time.
Since when did Salon permit Glenn Beck and the almost equally loony WSJ editorial page to set the terms of discussion, calling those who want answers to so much that remains unexplained about 9/11 "truthers" and thus giving them equivalence with "birthers," "deathers" and "tea baggers"? Since when was Van Jones a "czar" rather than an advisor? Since when was he not entitled to his opinions, past or present? Was it when he was born black and inexcusably smart? Jones is the kind of visionary with whom Franklin Roosevelt surrounded himself but of which the Obama administration is almost entirely bereft, and now that administration has shamefully thrown him to the sharks.
Have you contacted the widows and other family members who lost loved ones on that terrible day and asked them if they recant wondering why, for example, New York City and the Pentagon -- the fucking Pentagon! -- were defenseless on that morning more than a month after the would-be president was informed that Osama bin Laden was determined to attack the United States? Have you asked them if they are as disloyal, or as nuts, as Van Jones for signing that petition? Have you an answer for that and other questions on that petition, which were never discussed by the mainstream media when it piled on Jones at Beck's behest?
Van Jones was not only flayed for once signing a petition but for jokingly calling Republicans "assholes." Why is that "extreme" speech when Glenn Beck freely advocates violent overthrow of the U.S. government, gives an exegesis of the Communist/Fascist messages that "progressive" John D. Rockefeller Jr. insidiously inserted in the art of Rockefeller Center, and fantasizes killing Michael Moore and the speaker of the House on air to millions? When will the men with butterfly nets take this man away so that he does not hurt others or himself, rather than journalists allow him to take them down into his rat-infested sewer with him?
I keep hoping that, like Joe McCarthy, Mr. Beck (and O'Reilly, Coulter, Malkin, "Savage," etc.) will go too far, but -- with the wreck of public education and its replacement by entertainment -- Americans have so lost any moral compass that "too far" no longer exists as long as one is to the right of Dick Cheney.