New IG Report: Florida Health Department ‘Whistleblower’ REBEKAH JONES’ Claims Are ‘Unsubstantiated’
A new investigative report by a Florida Inspector General has found there’s insufficient evidence to support “whistleblower” data scientist Rebekah Jones’ COVID-19-related tampering allegations against officials in the state’s health department.
In mid 2020 data scientist Rebekah Jones blew the metaphorical whistle over supposed fraudulent data-keeping within Florida’s Department of Health (DOH). Specifically, Jones—who was the geographic information systems (GIS) manager and creator of the state’s COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard—alleged DOH officials falsified COVID-19 positivity rates, as well as pressured Jones herself to falsify positivity rates and restrict access to pertinent data.
Now, roughly two years later, the Florida Department of Health’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) has completed its investigation into Jones’ claims. And all of them, according to the report, are literally either “unsubstantiated” or “unfounded.”
The report, an excerpt of which is immediately above, was actually produced on March 9, 2022. However, it was only on May 26, 2022 that NBC News was able to obtain a copy, which “exonerates” those Jones accused of wrongdoing.
“The 27-page report from the Florida Department of Health’s Office of Inspector General said it found ‘insufficient evidence’ or no evidence to support Rebekah Jones’ accusations that she was asked to falsify Covid positivity rates or misrepresent them on the state’s dashboard she helped design,” NBC News reported. “The independent report paints a portrait of an employee who did not understand public health policy or the significance of epidemiological data, did not have high-level access to crucial information and leveled claims that made professional health officials ‘skeptical,'” the news organization added.
Despite the fact the OIG has apparently cleared anyone at Florida’s DOH involved in this matter, Jones’ Tallahassee attorney Rick Johnson still claims his client is a “whistleblower” and that she will continue on with her claim of wrongful termination in court. Johnson also says the report does not affect Jones’ rights, nor her ability to sue Florida’s DOH for wrongful termination. “It’s simple: She was fired for refusing to manipulate Covid data,” Johnson told NBC News.
Indeed, from Jones’ point of view, the investigation has “vindicated” her. In a May 29, 2022 Instagram post (immediately above), Jones posted a picture of her face, with the word “VINDICATED” above her head. In the subtext beneath the word Vindicated, Jones wrote: “State IG report: Rebekah Jones told the TRUTH – state ordered her to hide and delete data! Celebrate her victory! #TruthPrevails.”
In another post dated May 27, 2022 Jones posted a text meme simply stating: “VINDICATED. Now, the reckoning begins.” In the text alongside the meme, Jones wrote, in part:
“I’m relieved to be vindicated and to close this chapter of my life before taking [Florida’s DOH] to court to seek justice not just for myself, but also for my family and the people of Florida, who deserve the truth after everything this corrupt agency and government has done to us.
“It feels like a massive weight taken off me to be vindicated finally, after all this time, all the efforts by the state to defame and smear me, and the failed attempts to discredit me with baseless claims that have finally been proven false.”
Jones not only feels that she’s been vindicated by the OIG report that finds all of her allegations to be unsubstantiated, but she’s apparently so upset with the political situation in Florida she’s running as a Democrat for Congress against Republican representative Matt Gaetz.
“Florida’s first [congressional district] deserves a leader with integrity, honesty and courage,” Jones’ campaign donation page reads. Jones goes on to refer to herself as “The Florida scientist, whistleblower and mother who risked it all to fight corrupt government, cementing her place in history as our very own Florida heroine.”
The data scientist actually waded into politics not long after her termination from Florida’s DOH. A feud between Jones and now-Ron DeSantis Press Secretary Christina Pushaw erupted in early 2021, for example, after the latter woman wrote an article titled: “The Florida ‘COVID-19 Whistleblower’ Saga Is a Big Lie.”
NBC News reported that “In response, Jones filed a restraining order against Pushaw and then falsely suggested Pushaw violated it.” As for what happened exactly, the National Review reported on August 13, 2021 that “It’s a little complicated… but the gist is that, angered by Pushaw writing a piece about her lies, Jones took out an interim restraining order against Pushaw in Maryland, and, before that order had even been reviewed by the courts, filed a second claim alleging that it had been violated.”
Jones not only fought a losing battle against Pushaw, but also had her Twitter account suspended when she apparently violated the platform’s terms of service by “artificially amplifying” information. In an email correspondence with WFSU Public Media Jones said she received the suspension when she posted a Miami Herald article, “a few dozen times too many and got auto-flagged for spam.”
In response, Pushaw gloated on Twitter, writing in one post (above): “The Typhoid Mary of COVID-19 disinformation no longer has a platform to spread defamatory conspiracy theories. Long overdue.” Pushaw also ridiculed Jones following the release of the OIG’s report, specifically mocking the data scientist’s claim in a Facebook post that she’ll take $50 million from the lawsuit settlement she thinks she’ll collect from her wrongful termination suit and “put [it] back into struggling communities that STILL are barely holding on through DeSantis’ policy failures... [and] Gaetz’ refusal to work across the aisle… .”
Although Jones believes she’ll win even more than $50 million from her settlement, the Florida Commission on Human Relations, which has to review her wrongful termination claim before it can proceed to court, has yet to do so. NBC News reported Jones’ attorney believes the commission’s slow-walking of the decision is political and that it won’t do anything “until after the [congressional] election.”
Perhaps worse for Jones is the fact that she faces a still-pending felony charge for allegedly downloading confidential data from Florida’s DOH following her termination. Jones is charged with one count of “offenses against users of computers, computer systems, computer networks and electronic devices,” the Florida Department of Law Enforcement wrote in a statement released on January 18, 2021. Jones also has an unrelated misdemeanor stalking charge related to an affair she had with a former student while she was a Florida State University teacher.
Jones “has a lurid past including three arrests, a torrid affair with her student and being fired from her previous university teaching job,” the Daily Mail reported in May of 2020. Jones even wrote and posted a 342-page “manifesto” about the affair with her student, which begins with the subheading “Temptation,” and ends with the subheading “Court.”
Jones also faced criminal charges in 2016 in Louisiana, where she was arrested and charged by the LSU Police Department with one count each of battery on a police officer and remaining after forbidden, and two counts of resisting arrest after refusing to vacate a Louisiana State University office upon being dismissed from her staff position. (Indeed, former Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen defended the police’s decision to perform an armed raid on Jones’ home following the allegations of her downloading confidential data because of this record of police resistance.)
Despite her Twitter suspension, termination from her position at Florida’s DOH, the felony charge against her, and her well-documented affair with a student, Jones appears to be undeterred from moving forward with her bid for congressperson. She claimed in a TikTok video posted May 27, 2021 (above) that the OIG “split the baby” regarding the conclusions of its investigation into her allegations, saying that “for the two most explosive charges, [the OIG] basically threw their hands up and said we can’t prove that this did happen and we can’t prove that this didn’t happen.”
On April 17, 2022 Jones posted a FiveThirtyEight poll showing she leads Gaetz in her district by 6%. Public sentiment toward the terminated data scientist remains mixed, however, with some self-proclaimed “lifelong Democrats” calling her behavior “Truly unconscionable.”
Feature image: Georebekah
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