Amazon founder and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos announced that he would award $100 million to CNN commentator Van Jones as part of a project to promote civility in politics.
“I am announcing today a new philanthropic initiative … It is called the Courage And Civility award. It recognizes leaders who aim high to improve solutions with courage and always do so with civility,” Bezos said at a Tuesday press conference, shortly after his successful Blue Origin space launch. Jones will direct the money to charities of his choosing.
“We live in a world where sometimes, instead of disagreeing with someone’s ideas, we question their character or their motives. Guess what? After you do that, it’s pretty damn hard to work with that person. Really, what we should always be doing is questioning ideas, not the person. Ad hominem attacks have been around a long time, but they don’t work, and they’ve been amplified by social media,” Bezos explained.
“We do have role models … The Courage and Civility award is a $100 million award … The recipient can give $100 million to the charities and the nonprofits of their choice,” he continued, before announcing Jones.
Jones served as former President Barack Obama’s special advisor for green jobs before resigning the position due to his past support for the 9/11 Truther movement. He later served on the board of Solyndra, a solar energy company that received millions of dollars from the federal government shortly before going bankrupt.
At CNN, Van Jones frequently criticized former President Donald Trump, although he did work with the Trump administration on criminal justice initiatives. He consulted Trump advisor Jared Kushner on the First Step Act and was supportive of an executive order that requires police departments to upload use of force complaints to a national database. (RELATED: CNN’s Van Jones Says Trump Could Win Because Democrats ‘Not Talking About The Economic Devastation Of Riots’)
“Can you imagine grassroots folks from Appalachia, Native American reservations, having enough money to be able to connect with the geniuses that have disrupted this space industry, have disrupted taxis and hotels and bookstores, to start disrupting poverty? To start disrupting pollution? To start disrupting the prison industry together?” Jones said while accepting the award. “If you take people on the front lines in their wisdom, their genius, and their creativity, and you give them a shot, they’re not going to turn around the neighborhood, they’re going to turn around this nation. I appreciate you for lifting the ceiling off of people’s dreams. You have lifted the ceilings off of the dreams of humanity today, and that is an important thing.”
Celebrity chef Jose Andres also received the award from Bezos.