The Miami Herald was pounded over the weekend for an editorial hailing controversial former Florida Department of Health employee Rebekah Jones receiving “whistleblower” status for her brazen claims of being ordered to manipulate the state’s coronavirus data.
“The DeSantis administration has worked long and hard to discredit Rebekah Jones, fired last year from her job as a data analyst after she accused state health officials of pressuring her to manipulate certain coronavirus numbers. She has stood her ground for a year, and last week, the Florida’s Office of the Inspector General firmed up the earth beneath her feet,” the board wrote on Saturday. “Friday, the IG’s office told Jones’ attorneys that she is a whistleblower, officially. This will afford her certain protections, plus the possibility of reinstatement or compensation.”
However, Jones’s “whistleblower” status is unremarkable and does not bestow any additional credibility upon her claims. It is available to anyone who works or worked at a Florida state agency and is making claims of criminal wrongdoing, and prevents retaliation for advancing those claims.
Jones became a liberal media darling last year after claiming to have been fired after refusing to obey orders by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration to edit the state’s COVID figures. She also called Florida deputy secretary of health Dr. Shamarial Roberson a “murderer” who wanted her to “manually alter figures” on COVID-positivity rates to meet state re-opening goals.
Critics have charged Jones with being a serial fabulist who never even held the authority she claimed, and said she lacks evidence to bolster her shocking charges.
Jones was officially fired for insubordination; her personnel files, uploaded by National Review, revealed repeated infractions documented by her superiors – including posting on “social media regarding data and web product owned by the Department that she works on without permission of management or communications,” and potentially exposing personnel data on the geographic information system (GIS) dashboard she managed.
The Herald’s editorial added that Jones, “like her nemesis DeSantis, is not perfect.” Jones was arrested and charged with illegally hacking into Florida’s messaging system in January, and her checkered past includes multiple arrests and firings.
“An investigation continues, and with the cover of whistleblower status. Jones will need to vigorously back up her allegations and the state, its defense,” the Herald wrote. “For now, Jones’ whistleblower victory stands to be a win over state secrecy for the rest of us.”
The editorial got Jones’ seal of approval; she told her followers to subscribe to the south Florida newspaper.
Critics blasted the Herald for the editorial; some for equivocating between her and DeSantis and others for not providing more context about her situation.
A CBS News affiliate in West Palm Beach, Florida, reported last week that Jones’ claims were unsupported by evidence, and epidemiologists the outlet spoke to have seen nothing significant about Florida’s publicly available COVID numbers.
A deep dive by National Review also reported Jones did not have the capacity to make changes to the state’s raw coronavirus data.
“Rebekah Jones is making clear, objective, falsifiable claims that can be checked and rebutted,” National Review’s Charles C. W. Cooke said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” last week, where he poked the network and others for giving a platform to Jones.
Jones has also walked back her claim that she was asked to “delete deaths,” recently tweeting that, “deleting deaths was never something I was asked to do.” That tweet has since been deleted.