UPDATE, Wednesday: The White House released a video of Joe Biden and actor Chris Evans, in which the president presents the Captain America star with a pair of sunglasses.
“What you’re doing with the kids matters, so thanks for doing this,” Biden said, as Evans was appearing at an event to boost civic engagement. Biden also said, “I’m a fan.”
PREVIOUSLY, Tuesday: “He said I could call him Captain America,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said to Chris Evans at a White House event today.
Evans and Mark Kassen, co-founders of the civic engagement not-for-profit A Starting Point, were speaking to Jean-Pierre and other White House officials for a youth forum about the environment, climate change, and the economy.
Evans’ question to Jean-Pierre — about how to have a “productive conversation” with someone who disagrees with you — is in line with what he and Kassen are doing with A Starting Point.
Their non-partisan site is designed to help create a more informed electorate by breaking down major issues in easy-to-understand ways with video explainers from lawmakers and other government figures, as well as features like point/counterpoints and quick takes on news of the day. Evans and Kassen started the venture with tech entrepreneur Joe Kiani, and have been spotted from time to time on Capitol Hill. A Starting Point is so far self funded, although they are starting to work with other financial partners.
“We thought we could help shine a light on certain issues and create more civic engagement,” Evans told CNBC’s Emily Wilkins at an appearance at the National Press Club on Monday. “We each have our own social media [accounts]. We each have our own opinions, but that only reaches a certain amount. I think we both felt more good could come from creating a mechanism, a platform, where it is more about engagement, about education, demystifying issues to create a government that more accurately reflects who we are, because if you have half of the country not voting and not using their voice, you will never have a government that understands where we are going.”
Speaking to the room full of journalists, Kassen said, “We are very conscious that we’re not reporters or news. We create a platform of information so that people can go, quite frankly, to where you all work and really dive deeper.” He added, “It started very small, and then we couldn’t help ourselves, so we are where we are.”
The site, for instance, has a feature on playing college athletes, including a conversation with Sen. Pete Ricketts (R-NE) and Rep. Lori Trahan (D-MA). Another post features Evans and Kassen speaking with Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona about the rise of antisemitism and Islamophobia on college campuses. A post simply titled, “What is a red flag gun law?” allows users to pick from an array of lawmakers to answer that question for their perspective.
When it comes to combatting misinformation, Kassen said that they “look to branch out in other subjects. We’re finding other ways to involve experts that we never did before, and some subject matters that we found maybe it is not best to have elected officials be the ones that break it down.” But he told the journalists, “We’re very, very conscious that we are not you.”
Evans and Kassen have said that they don’t want to be at the center of A Starting Point in the longterm. Evans, for instance, had been very vocal in criticism of Donald Trump on Twitter, now known as X.
Evans said, “I’ve made my opinions known so vocally that you don’t want someone at face value to think that we are pushing something. The nature of the site is information based and not my opinion. I am not an expert. I’m not a journalist. I have no right to be in this arena, other than as a voter, as an American, who wants to play on the one string I have, which is my voice, as we all should.”
When Wilkins asked if either of them thought about going into politics, they each said no even though they admitted to being intrigued. “I don’t think so,” Evans said. “I think there’s better ways to be a part of the world without having to do the work that goes into being an elected official.”