President Obamas key environmental advisor has resigned after a petition he signed that suggested the 9/11 attacks were conducted with the knowledge of the previous administration was revealed online by bloggers.
At the heart of the controversy is a 2004 petition Van Jones signed which called for an investigation into whether government officials deliberately allowed the attacks to occur as a pretext of war. The petition can still be found on the internet, and Jones has distanced himself from it.
Jones, a close Obama aide and friend, was a member of the Council on Environmental Quality whose job it is to help implement the government’s agenda of creating millions of green jobs. His resignation was announced over the weekend, with the administration insisting Jones was not fired, but made the decision himself.
However, Jones appeared to lay the blame squarely on the Republicans saying in a statement that "on the eve of historic fights for healthcare and clean energy, opponents of reform have mounted a vicious smear campaign against me," adding, "they are using lies and distortions to distract and divide."
Meanwhile, his departure was welcomed by Republicans with Representative Mike Pence of Indiana saying, "[such] extremist views and coarse rhetoric have no place in this administration."
The development has also prompted critics to call for more careful vetting of the people appointed to the so-called "czar" positions within the administration.