Former White House adviser Van Jones isn’t exactly a shrinking violet – in fact, from what we’ve seen, he relishes conflict. However, that relish might not extend to people who staff the events where he gives his speeches. One video blogger found this out when he tried to clarify a remark that Van Jones had made from the stage at Chicago’s Green Festival to the effect of “Don’t ever let somebody like me in the White House.”
To be fair to Jones, he obviously wasn’t serious. In fact, the remark was intended as a jab at his political opponents, as its full context shows:
“I might have something to say, and maybe that’s why our opponents were so interested in shutting me up, and so, surprise! I’m back!” Jones crowed in his speech. “Don’t ever let somebody like me in the White House, and then insist that I come back out here with all of y’all, because now we can make this thing work.”
The implication is clear: Jones’ opponents actually made him more dangerous by forcing him out of the Obama White House, where his message was tightly controlled, and turning him back into an outsider with no filter.
Nevertheless, the blogger in question decided to persistently ask Jones about the throwaway comment, which Jones just as persistently refused to respond to, even though he easily could have said it was a joke and moved on. What followed was genuinely creepy.
At first, the questioner was systematically kept back from Jones by various staff of the event, who shoved and pushed him away from Jones as he continued to ask his question. When this failed, the staff apparently decided they’d had enough freedom of the press for one day, and forcibly escorted the credentialed blogger away from Jones and point blank asked him to surrender his press credentials, with the warning that he was banned from the event.
“You’re not gonna be allowed back in here, I’m sorry,” says a woman identified as Erin Brunner, Press Contact for the Green Festivals. “You can’t accost our speakers, I’m very sorry.”
Apparently Ms. Brunner has never heard of “ambush interviews,” which are a common tactic in New Media journalism. Nevertheless, when asked if she allowed interviews, Brunner said she did, but that the people wishing to interview a speaker had to clear their request with the press office, first. The implication being clear — no hard questions.
Granted, the Chicago Green Festival is a private event and has the right to refuse to credential reporters it doesn’t like. However, to strip an already ideologically unfriendly reporter of his credentials while he holds a video camera might not be the best PR move ever invented. Unfortunately for the Green Festivals, this isn’t the first time this has happened either. Fox News’ Jesse Waters suffered similar treatment last month when he tried to ask Van Jones tough questions at a Green Festival.
Does Jones really need this kind of protection? He seems more than capable of handling himself against opponents.