CNN commentator Van Jones joined the women of The View on Friday morning to discuss his new documentary, The Reunited States, which he co-produced with current View co-host Meghan McCain. But before they could get into a conversation about the collaboration, co-host Sonny Hostin had a bone to pick with Jones over what she described as inconsistent politics.
“Now Van, you do spend a lot of time threading the middle and trying to unite people,” Hostin started. “But there are those who accuse you of being a political opportunist — a chameleon, so to speak — who provided racial cover for former, disgraced, twice impeached President Trump.”
She went on to quote one of Jones’s comments on CNN, where he stated that Trump “has done good stuff for the Black community. Opportunity Zone stuff, Black college stuff …. There is a side to Donald Trump that I think he does not get enough credit for.”
Hostin said that this was before Jones had cried on CNN when President Joe Biden was elected because “it’s easier to be a parent now, character matters now, truth matters.” She continued, “You even mentioned George Floyd and said a lot of people felt they couldn’t breathe. People in the Black community don’t trust you anymore. What is your response?”
Jones appeared puzzled by the question. “Well, I don’t think that’s true,” he said, and explained that he believed the quote was taken out of context. “The entire quote I said was that Trump has done a lot of stuff he doesn’t get credit for and then I went on to say the reason he doesn’t get credit for it is because he’s done all this horrific stuff and it completely erases what he’s done.”
“People may not like everything I’ve said on television and I try to be balanced,” the CNN contributor continued. “But look at what I have done. Who among my critics have been able to get people together to help folks at the bottom? When we fight like this about everything and you can’t give anybody even a little bit of credit for anything, who it hurts is not the politicians, it’s not the pundits, it’s regular folks who don't have anything.”
But, over the following years, Jones has softened on Trump, going so far to call a speech given by the former Presidential during a Joint Session of Congress to honor a slain NAVY Seal "one of the most extraordinary moments you have ever seen in American politics" (Trump has repeatedly mocked and disparaged those who died in war as "losers" and "suckers"). Van Jones also praised Trump’s executive orders on so-called police reform, which he had allegedly helped craft in private with Jared Kushner, The Daily Beast reported.
He denied working on the policy in a tweet, writing, the “article is based on false, sensational charges — apparently designed to get clicks, shares, and likes. I haven’t even visited DC since before the pandemic started — let alone been inside the White House.” Still, Jones was criticized by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Color of Change for praising the policy on CNN’s Inside Politics.
Jones was also criticized by progressives in 2019 when he spoke on a panel at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, DC. At the time, Jones praised GOP leaders for cutting “the prison population and crime at the same time." He made similar comments in 2018 when he referred to Trump as the “uniter-in-Chief” for signing into law a prison and sentencing reform bill, called the First Step Act. Jones apparently worked with Trump on The First Step Act in 2019, saying that his priority was to "get people out of prison" rather than focus on the "bullshit" around how this looked for him politically.
But then, at the height of political tensions in the US, on the day CNN announced Joe Biden to be the next president of the United States, Jones gave a moving testament to how many parents — particularly Black parents — were feeling about Donald Trump's reign being over. The speech went on to make headlines, and Jones' words became emblematic of how so many Black Americans felt on that particular day.
What is perhaps most confusing, as pointed out by another co-host on The View, Ana Navarro, is how Jones's relationship with the Trumps continued to move back and forth, and whether this was "playing both sides" or not. Navarro pointed out that in 2016, Jared Kushner was calling on CNN to fire Jones. Then, suddenly, Jones was showing up in photos with Kushner and Ivanka Trump, as well as conservative commentator Candace Owens. And then, again, Jones reverted back to condemning Trump and crying with joy when he wasn't re-elected.
“How did you go from being this very principled critic of the Trump administration, as I was, to all of a sudden, being in the White House celebrating with them?” Navarro asked.
"There is no evolution," Jones replied. "When Obama was in office, I was working with Newt Gingrich, I was working with Republicans then, to get people out of prison. To put the people first." Jones went on to say that he was "proud" of the work he did with the Trump administration, and it's work that he will do with "every president."
"And I will continue to critique Donald Trump. I will continue to critique him every single day," he said.