×

Van Jones Has Hopes for CNN’s ‘Messy Truth’

Van Jones seems like a person who keeps in mind the old adage about not being able to make an omelet unless some eggs get broken in the process.

“I just want to mix it up a little bit,” says Jones, the author, activist and one-time advisor to President Barack Obama. He is set to unveil at 9 p.m. this evening the second in a series of “town hall” specials called “The Messy Truth.” A third is set to air on January 25. The goal, says Jones, is to get people with different political and personal beliefs talking to each other again.

Viewers will see the results of his travels to swing states like Ohio and Michigan, where he chats with voters who once picked President Obama, but more recently voted for Donald Trump. He finds their concerns very different from the issues that are taken up by big media outlets. “There are so many things that we obsessed about in the national media that just don’t seem to have had any relevance to the decision-making of the people who ultimately determine the election, especially in the Rust Belt,” Jones said in a recent interview.

Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm and former Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina will take part in the January 11 special and take questions from the audience.

CNN’s initial push behind the show suggests the network is eager to test new programming ideas to lure a viewership that has been fascinated by the recent presidential election, but could choose to reduce that interest in that event’s aftermath. Jones said he would like to continue doing “Messy Truth” events for CNN for the immediate future. “We could do this a couple of times a month,” he noted. During the first 100 days of the new Trump administration, he suggested, “there are so many topics to get out there and humanize.”

Jones likens the shows to what might happen if globe-trotting chef Anthony Bourdian combined his series with Phil Donahue’s once-popular daytime hot-button topics program. One of the ways people can bring America’s divided populate together, he argues, is to go out to various parts of the U.S. to meet with residents and “bring very strong, very well-known political leaders into a room with ordinary voters and community members, and let the community members really drive what we talk about.”

The program aims to show viewers that “listening makes for a better conversation,” says Rebecca Kutler, executive producer of the program. “People might disagree but they don’t have to be disagreeable.” She said CNN was focusing on the next two specials and declined to say if more might be in the works.

Jones cited his unique background as an impetus for the series. He grew up, he says, as a “red-state progressive” in western Tennessee, where he attended public school and Sunday church. “I really understand how dad-gum smart people in the middle of the country are. I also understand how the coastal, cosmopolitan crowd can really come off as holier than thou and snotty, but of course, I really embrace those strong liberal values you find in the blue states,” he explained. “I really think that gives me something to bring to the national conversation.”

More TV

  • Variety Cord Cutting Placeholder Cable

    Fox, Charter Strike New Carriage Deal

    Fox Corporation and Charter Communications, Inc. on Monday said they struck a new “long term” carriage deal for Fox’s suite of TV networks, the latest in a recent series of agreements Fox has struck with various distributors. Financial terms were not disclosed. The pact covers distribution of Fox Television Stations, Fox News Channel, Fox Business [...]

  • Mike Birbiglia Sets Third Netflix Stand-Up

    Mike Birbiglia Sets Third Netflix Stand-Up Special

    Mike Birbiglia has set a third stand-up special at Netflix. The comedian is bringing his Broadway show “Mike Birbiglia: The New One” to the streamer, with a special set to launch on Nov. 26, 2019. Filmed at the Cort Theater in Manhattan, the show sees Birbiglia blend observational and confessional comedy as he struggles with [...]

  • ‘Marcella’ Producer Buccaneer Hires Richard Tulk-Hart

    ‘Marcella’ Producer Buccaneer Hires Richard Tulk-Hart as Co-CEO (EXCLUSIVE)

    Richard Tulk-Hart will join Tony Wood as co-CEO of Buccaneer Media, the U.K.-based producer of Netflix and ITV hit series “Marcella.” Tulk-Hart is joining Buccaneer from A+E Networks, where he is managing director for international, working across distribution, formats and co-productions. Prior to A+E, Tulk-Hart worked at Fremantle, IMG, and Miramax in senior roles. He [...]

  • The Crown Season 3 Teaser

    ‘The Crown’ Season 3 Trailer Teases Rivalry Between the Queen and Princess Margaret

    Netflix has released the full trailer for season 3 of “The Crown,” and it’s clear that everything isn’t exactly going swimmingly for Olivia Colman’s Queen Elizabeth II. Set to a cover of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are a Changin’,” the trailer teases that this season the monarchy will have to grapple with a miner’s [...]

  • Katherine Ryan Says Boyfriend Saved Her

    Katherine Ryan Says Boyfriend Saved Her Netflix Scripts in Fight With Burglar

    London-based comedian, actor and writer Katherine Ryan says her boyfriend fought off a masked burglar and saved a laptop that contained scripts from her upcoming Netflix show, “The Duchess.” Sharing details on Instagram over the weekend, Ryan said her partner, Bobby Kootstra, tackled the intruder. “This is why I love Bobby K.,” Ryan wrote. “He [...]

  • Meghan Duchess of Sussex during a

    Prince Harry, Meghan Markle Documentary Scores International Deals

    Prince Harry and Meghan Markle open up on the stress of living in the spotlight in a candid documentary that is scoring more international deals. “Harry and Meghan: An African Journey” was broadcast Sunday on ITV in the U.K. and  will go out on ABC in the U.S. on Wednesday night. Produced by ITN Productions [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content