WASHINGTON - Van Jones, President Barack Obama's adviser on "green jobs," resigned his post overnight, after a series of controversial comments came to light triggering withering attacks from conservatives.
At midnight, the White House released Mr. Jones' resignation letter from the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
"On the eve of historic fights for health care and clean energy, opponents of reform have mounted a vicious smear campaign against me. They are using lies and distortions to distract and divide," he wrote.
Within minutes, Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the council, released a second, more curt, statement accepting Mr. Jones' resignation. "Over the last six months he has been a strong voice for creating 21st century jobs that improve energy efficiency and utilize renewable resources. We appreciate his hard work and wish him the best moving forward."
Mr. Jones has been in the center of a maelstrom on conservative radio and television talk shows since a video surfaced last week showing him calling Republicans a vulgar epithet. Since then, other controversies have emerged, such as Mr. Jones saying black students would have never committed a massacre such as the one at Colorado's Columbine High School. His name also appeared on a 2004 petition calling for the government to investigate its own culpability in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. None of those issues happened after Mr. Jones joined the administration.
Mr. Jones apologized for the epithet aimed at Republicans, but he said the Sept. 11 petition "certainly does not reflect my views, now or ever."
Mr. Jones' resignation, in the dead of night over Labor Day weekend, marks the first time one of the numerous conservative campaigns raging against the Obama administration has drawn decisive blood. Mr. Jones was one of the "czars" conservatives have been attacking as extra-constitutional appointments not subject to Senate confirmation. He was a relatively minor official -- a special adviser for green jobs on the White House Council on Environmental Quality. But his best selling book, telegenic personality and frequent appearances as a motivational speaker made him an outsized figure in that post.
He was only one front in the wars waging in conservative circles. Conservatives are angry about an address Mr. Obama plans to deliver to school children on Tuesday about the need for hard work and perseverance. They say he is indoctrinating children in his "socialist" political beliefs. A suggestion from White House officials that Americans e-mail in suspicious claims about the president's health care plans was condemned as a hunt for political enemies.
"I am not aware of any precedent for a president asking American citizens to report their fellow citizens to the White House for pure political speech that is deemed 'fishy' or otherwise inimical to the White House's political interests," Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn wrote in a letter to the president. He continued, "You should not be surprised that these actions taken by your White House staff raise the specter of a data collection program."
The effort was quickly shelved.
On Friday, when White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked whether Mr. Jones had the president's confidence, he said only that Mr. Jones "continues to work in the administration."
"I have been inundated with calls -- from across the political spectrum -- urging me to 'stay and fight,'" Mr. Jones wrote. "But I came here to fight for others, not for myself. I cannot in good conscience ask my colleagues to expend precious time and energy defending or explaining my past. We need all hands on deck, fighting for the future."