CNN’s Van Jones discusses Clinton, Trump and Fake News at U-M Ann Arbor

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — CNN political contributor Van Jones made a stop at the University of Michigan on Tuesday evening. Jones was in town to talk about his new book “Beyond The Messy Truth.” The discussion was moderated by Michigan Radio’s Zoe Clark.

In the book, he is very critical of President Trump and explained what mistakes were made by Hillary Clinton’s campaign. He also offered advice on how to rebuild the Democratic party. Jones interviewed a Detroit pastor who said Clinton’s campaign manager went missing-in-action in the state of Michigan.

Is the Democratic party OK? That was Zoe Clark’s first question to Van Jones.

“We’ll be ok but we’re not ok,” the CNN political contributor answered. “We didn’t notice that we had lost the house and the senate and two third of the governorships. A lot of professionals didn’t know we were in trouble until election night. Both political parties suck as far as I’m concerned.”

Then, Jones talked about his upbringing in Tennessee.

“I grew up on the edge of a small town. I went to all public schools went to church every other Sunday. I got accepted to Yale for law school. When you’re not born into that world…It’s not a good view. I got dumped into the elite. My family still lives in Tennessee.”

The CNN political contributor turned author thought Trump was a master at using social media and his status as a reality star to his advantage. No matter how crazy Trump’s tweets were, they were helping his campaign because millions of people liked and shared them over and over again.

“I got every state right but Wisconsin predicting a Trump victory,” he said. “Liberals are not remotely interested in what I had to say. JFK mastered radio and understood the new media. Obama understood the internet. You got a guy who understands social media and reality television. He’s saying crazy stuff. He’s following the rules of the new media system. The elite is too out of touch to understand.”

Jones said that Hillary Clinton made a lot of mistakes during her campaign that cost her the White House. For one, she didn’t spend enough time campaigning with boots on the ground in key Midwestern states.

“The Clintons spend a billion dollars on data research and polling. Their data showed them Michigan was in the bag. There was a decision at the top that certain people could be taken for granted. The data dummies said Trump is the turnout mechanism. I’m on TV all day and every segment we’re showing Trump doing dumb things and Hillary Clinton had ads. We just did that for you for free. Maybe your ads can be about you or what you want to do.”

How does the Democratic party move forward?

“We need to be reinvesting in our base,” the CNN contributor explained. “We need to get some of the people who voted for Obama twice and voted for Trump and invite them to our base.I’m really glad to come to places like this the heart of the liberal progressive cause. We’ve been doing the same thing over and over. Here’s the great danger. We’re looking at a potential eight years of Donald Trump. We don’t want that. We need to look in the mirror and think what are we doing wrong so this never ever happens again.”

Jones offered some advice to for high school and college students who want to get involved in the political process.

“I’m noticing a trend with younger people to give away your power too soon,” he said. “Get your peers involved. Get an internship or externship. Be bright and beautiful. Let the good people help you today. People just do what’s trending but you guys are especially that way. Key into what they’re into and move it into your direction. We’ll be OK if we pick a future and fight for it. Don’t underestimate the heroism of our cause.”

During the question-and-answer session, I asked Jones for his opinion on the concept of “fake news.” President Trump has accused CNN of airing “fake news” reports. In addition, the University of Michigan offers a one-credit course called “Fake News, Lies and Propaganda: How to Sort Fact From Fiction.

“There’s always been fake news,” the CNN anchor answered. “The president has gotten very good at labeling his opposition’s ideas as fake news. I always ask why are you worried about that? It’s a psychological emotional thing that happens. You’ve got to really try to put your energy exactly where you have no power. Now I’m worried about the Russians and Trump’s tweets and my ultra right wing cousin who I don’t speak to anymore. I’m not actually worried about what I can do today. I’m very concerned now. I know, because I’ve had a ton of therapy, when I left the White House, I was chemically depressed for about a year. It was a very tough year of my life. I had to go through a lot of healing and reflection.

“The Tea Party went after ACORN, they went after Van Jones. What Trump represents is the bully winning. Your whole life has been designed to prove that bullies don’t win. People are really psychologically and spiritually wounded here. It’s very important that you recognize what’s going on with you and start finding way back to your own strength and health. It’s almost, from my point of view, to get the work done, we’re going to have to do some personal work. We’re going to have to do some basic healing.”

Attendee James Mahowald, 28, of Ann Arbor said he enjoyed the discussion with Jones and Clark.

“It was a really strong message of unity and coming togetherness,” said Mahowald said. “I believe strongly in the younger generation. I just remember Van Jones watching the CNN coverage on election night. Listen, you won and it was about unity and not about division. I’d encourage other people to read the book. He always has a lot of good things to say.”

Look for Van Jones’ new book “Beyond the Messy Truth” in bookstores everywhere. Follow Van Jones at: @vanjones68 on Twitter and Instagram or visit his website at:




Fans waiting to get inside the Van Jones event in Ann Arbor, Mich. (Jason Rzucidlo/AmericaJR)


Poster of Van Jones’ new book “Beyond the Messy Truth.” (Jason Rzucidlo/AmericaJR)


All attendees received autographed copies of his new book. (Jason Rzucidlo/AmericaJR)


Michigan Radio’s Zoe Clark and CNN Political Commentator Van Jones at the University of Michigan. (Jason Rzucidlo/AmericaJR)


Attendees listening to the discussion between Clark and Jones. (Jason Rzucidlo/AmericaJR)


An audience member asks a question at the conclusion of the discussion. (Jason Rzucidlo/AmericaJR)


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