On Friday, the co-hosts of “The View” excoriated progressive activist Van Jones for working with the former Trump administration — and for taking a “smiling” photo with conservative commentator Candace Owens.
“You did things like taking smiling pictures with Candace Owens, who, I think, is very hurtful,” charged co-host Ana Navarro. “Do you not regret that? Do you not see that you’re giving her legitimacy? You don’t regret taking smiling pictures with Candace Owens?”
Jones, to his credit, was befuddled by the question. Though the co-hosts of the ABC show tried to keep him from answering Navarro’s inquiries, Jones said he has zero regrets about being cordial with Owens.
“I’ll take pictures with anybody,” he said over the show’s exit music.
Owens responded to the exchange in a tweet, writing, “The radical Left wants to unite America by making it a criminal act to smile in pictures with conservatives. Utterly psychotic.”
The rest of the segment proved the old adage true: No good deed goes unpunished.
He was on the show to talk about the new CNN documentary, “The Reunited States,” which he produced alongside “The View” co-host Meghan McCain. The conversation, though, quickly devolved, showing just how bitterly divided the country is right now.
One of the show’s co-hosts, Sunny Hostin, excoriated Jones for being “a political opportunist,” “a chameleon,” and a man “who provided racial cover for former, disgraced, twice impeached President Trump.” Toward the end of her diatribe against Jones, she declared black Americans “don’t trust you,” particularly because the CNN commentator has been willing to work with Republicans on issues regarding justice and prison reform.
Clearly taken aback by her harangue, Jones first said, “Well, I don’t think that’s true,” accusing Hostin of misrepresenting him. He then set the record straight:
My entire life has been about bringing people together to solve tough problems for people at the very bottom who don’t have anything. I’ve spent 25 years fighting against the prison system. I have helped to close five abusive prisons. And by working with Republicans at the local, state, and federal level — and yes, including the Trump administration — I have helped to pass 18 bipartisan bills. We got 14,000 people out of the federal prison system with the First Step Act and more to come. We got 70,000 human beings who were suffering in jails and prisons under COVID released under compassionate release — working with Republicans and Democrats.
You know, black lives matter. Math matters, too. Eighty percent of black votes are locked up in states that are run in part or whole by Republicans, red states and purple states. So when you can pass a law — as my team has done — in a Louisiana, in a Georgia, in California, Michigan, red states, blue states, and purple states to get people home.
The people behind bars are not sitting up here worried, saying, “Get me out of prison, Van. But whatever you do, don’t talk to a Republican.” They say, “Get me out of prison.” And I am proud of the fact that my team at the REFORM Alliance, Dream Corps., and Cut50 have been able to work with anybody to get folks home.
At a certain point, we’ve got to stop focusing on rhetoric and look at result.
People may not like everything I’ve said on television, and I try to be balanced. 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.
I’m never going to apologize for putting the interest of people at the bottom first. People need champions. Whoever is in that White House, you have a responsibility to go in there and advocate, and try to get people home out of prison. I’m going to keep doing it, whoever is in that White House.
Jones played a role in the creation and passage of the First Step Act, which then-President Donald Trump signed into law in 2018. Among other things, the legislation focuses on reducing recidivism, decreasing the prison population, creating better conditions for women, and offering a way out — and forward — for non-violent offenders.
At another point during the show, he told McCain it’s important for the country to have two leading parties, telling her he doesn’t want to see a one-party rule because that’s a “dictatorship.”
Nevertheless, the co-hosts at “The View” — save McCain — were uninterested in what Jones had to say or the work he’s done.
“Sunny is right,” Navarro chided. “You’ve lost a lot of people who trusted you and who saw you as a voice because of the positions you took during Trump.”