The continued backlash over Van Jones’s declaration that Donald Trump “became president” during his speech to Congress last week loomed large over Wednesday’s episode of The Messy Truth on CNN. And those comments were the first thing he wanted to talk about to his guest, The Daily Show host Trevor Noah, when they sat down for their live conversation.
“A lot of people thought that I had jumped the shark and joined the Trump administration, in the tank,” Jones said. “Were you one of them?”
“No,” Noah replied. “You know what I realized in that moment?” He talked about how, during the debates, he would see Trump “connect” with people in the same way a stand-up comedian does. “He knows how to broach a topic in a way no one normally can,” he continued. “And during that moment with Ryan’s wife, Trump even told a joke and people laughed, people connected,” he said, referring to the moment when Trump seemed to brag about the length of the standing ovation for the fallen Navy SEAL. “And I was like, that is scary, man. That’s good.”
“And when you watch Trump and what you said, my first instinct was, ‘Come again, Van?’” Noah added of Jones’s surprisingly supportive post-speech commentary on CNN. “But when I watched that, I realized what you were saying. And the honest truth is that he became presidential in that moment. What’s not scary is that he became presidential in that moment. I think what’s scary is that it is that easy to become presidential.”
In other words, acting “presidential” is not the impressive feat that many of Jones’s critics are making it out to be.
In his interview with The Daily Beast this week, Jones said he has no “regrets” for praising Trump in the way he did the week before. “My dad’s in the military and that moment where everybody in Congress stood up and applauded that widow, that really moved me,” he said. “And it moved a lot of people. I said, if he keeps doing stuff like this, he’s going to be there for eight years.”
Jones also asked Noah if he ever worries that by “debunking” Trump on a nightly basis he’s actually adding to the country’s “polarization” problem.
“Sometimes I worry about it, but the thing I’ve come to realize is, you’ve got to be careful that you don’t push it so far that you are empathizing,” Noah said. “You should understand where people are coming from, but be careful of putting yourself in their position, because then you will justify why people do what they do, things that you may not agree with.” He said it’s “unrealistic” to think you can change everybody’s minds.
Later, when Jones asked Noah to try to help decode Trump’s appeal, he said, “We see the madness, and we focus on that. And then you don’t focus on why he connects. You can’t expect people to disavow him when that’s the reason they voted him in.” He added, “The one thing a lot of people struggle with is Trump is doing what he said he was going to do. If you voted for Trump right now, you’re like, yeah, this is what I voted for.”