February 8, 2021

REPORT: The “Florida COVID-19 Whistleblower” Saga Is a Big Lie.

NPR describes [Rebekah] Jones as a “top scientist” leading Florida’s pandemic response. In fact, Jones has held three jobs in her field; all three have ended in her being terminated and criminally charged. She has a Master’s in geography from Louisiana State University, where she worked until she was fired. She was arrested in 2016 while, reportedly, trespassing on campus and attempting to steal computer equipment from her former workplace. She then lectured at Florida State University (FSU) and began researching tropical storms for a dissertation, but never earned a Ph.D. as she was suspended and fired in 2018 after her former student accused her of sexual cyberharassment. Before her termination from the DoH, she was a geographic information systems manager, overseeing the COVID-19 web portal.

It’s therefore misleading to imply Jones has specialized knowledge of infectious disease. Florida’s top Democratic official calls her “Dr. Rebekah Jones,” but Jones is no doctor. Nor is she an epidemiologist, virologist, statistician, or public health professional; the DoH has a highly qualified team of those. A technical manager, Jones didn’t have the authority or expertise to decide unilaterally how to visualize data. But when experts disagreed with her, she assumed they were wrong—or deliberately deceiving the public.

After she was fired from the DoH for a pattern of insubordination, Jones claimed that Deputy Secretary for Health Shamarial Roberson had asked her to “manipulate data to mislead the public” about the safety of reopening rural counties. According to Dr. Roberson, this is “patently false.” Emails show a state epidemiologist told Jones to temporarily disable data export from the dashboard to verify dates against other official sources. The data was aggregated from local public health authorities in 67 counties; it couldn’t be falsified or hidden. In other words, Jones is no “whistleblower.” She’s a conspiracy theorist.

In amplifying Jones’ story, the media has all but ignored Dr. Roberson, who has impressive experience in epidemiology and a doctorate in public health. As a Black woman from a disadvantaged background, she has risen to the forefront of Florida’s pandemic response. Dr. Roberson deserves the recognition the media has lavished on her ex-employee. But according to The Narrative, serving in a conservative administration disqualifies her.

Exit quote: What distinguishes ‘whistleblowers’ from ‘disgruntled ex-employees’ is credibility, and here Jones has a problem.

 

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