The Democratic CNN contributor joined Friday’s broadcast to promote The Reunited States, a political documentary he co-produced alongside Meghan McCain. However, The View co-host Sunny Hostin used the opportunity to grill Jones over his past comments in support of former president Donald Trump, and went so far as to say the Black community no longer trusts him.
“Now Van, you do spend a lot of time threading the middle and trying to unite people,” Hostin said. “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 read one of Jones’ past quotes, in which he applauded Trump for all the “good stuff” he did for Black Americans, such as support for prison reform and opportunity zones.
“Yet just recently you cried on CNN when Joe Biden was elected the 46th president, and you said it’s easier to be a parent now, character matters now, truth matters,” Hostin 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, clearly caught off guard, immediately defended himself and insisted his words were taken out of context. He acknowledged that Trump had done “horrific” things, but those actions prevented him from receiving credit for all the other “good stuff.”
“The entire quote I said was that Trump has done a lot of good stuff he doesn’t get credit for, and then I said the reason he doesn’t get credit for it is because he’s done all this horrific stuff, said all this horrific stuff and it completely erases what he’s done,” Jones said. “But what happens is social media will take the clip, but they won’t show the whole context … My entire life has been about bringing people together to solve tough problems together at the very bottom who don’t have anything.”
Jones went on to highlight some of his accomplishments in his fight against the criminal justice system. He explained he had worked with politicians on both sides of the aisle on all levels of government, and that by doing so, he has helped get thousands of people out of the federal prison system.
“At a certain point, we gotta stop focusing on rhetoric and focus on results,” he said. “People may not like everything I’ve said on television, 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 hurts is not the politicians, it’s not the pundits, it’s regular folks who don’t have anything.”
After the commercial break, co-host Ana Navarro said she agreed with Hostin and then slammed Jones for taking photos with Trump’s children, as well as Black conservative commentator Candace Owens. Navarro, an anti-Trump Republican, claimed Jared Kushner had attempted to get Jones fired from CNN back in 2016, and questioned why he was so comfortable working with the family.
“All of a sudden you show up working with Nepotism Barbie (Ivanka Trump) and Nepotism Ken (Kushner), and showing up in pictures with Eric Trump and with Candace Owens and so I think there’s people wondering – and I’m one of them – how did that evolution happen?” she asked. “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 and posing for pictures with Candace Owens? Can you explain that evolution to people who are puzzled by it?”
Jones said there was never an “evolution,” and pointed out he had been working with Republicans during the Obama administration. He also said that refusing to work with the former president would’ve been a selfish move, as his ultimate goal was to help those behind bars.
“I was a person who was willing to go in there and do it with every president to get people home from prison,” he said.
Navarro continued to criticize Jones for taking photos with Owens, claiming it helped “legitimize” the polarizing figure. As Jones began to respond, The View moderator Joy Behar cut to commercial.
You can read reactions to the tense exchange below. It’s worth noting Jones retweeted some that were more favorable to him.