Critics lash Washington Post for portraying Rebekah Jones story as 'feud' with DeSantis
Fired Florida Department of Health employee was kicked off Twitter this week
The Washington Post was panned Tuesday for its story on the Twitter suspension of former Florida Department of Health employee Rebekah Jones that framed her as being in an "ongoing feud" with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis., R.
Jones, whose wild claims of being ordered by DeSantis officials to manipulate the state's coronavirus data made her a liberal media darling, was suspended Monday over "platform manipulation" and "spam." The punishment, she claimed, was related to her over-sharing a Miami Herald article about her saga, and she thought she would get her account back within the week.
The Post's lead made the story into a David v. Goliath saga: "For more than a year, an increasingly bitter dispute has played out between one of the country’s highest-profile governors and an ex-state employee who has referred to herself as ‘a nobody.’"
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Yet the "nobody" before her Twitter suspension garnered more than 400,000 followers, a lucrative GoFundMe account, appearances on liberal outlets like CNN, MSNBC, and NPR, and a widely mocked, cushy profile in Cosmopolitan Magazine. DeSantis' office has pushed back strongly against Jones, calling her a "super-spreader of COVID-19 disinformation."
The Post's story did not mention that former Division of Emergency Management Jared Moskowitz, a Democrat, has called her claims false.
National Review's Charles C. W. Cooke, who has written extensively on Jones' claims, called the Post's story "absurd framing."
"'Whistleblower' should be in quotes," wrote the Washington Examiner's Becket Adams. Jones received "whistleblower" status last week from Florida, but the designation does not bestow any veracity upon her claims but rather protects her from retaliation for making charges of criminal activity at the agency where she worked.
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DeSantis spokeswoman Christina Pushaw tweeted out her full response to Washington Post reporter Reis Thebault, saying DeSantis' stance against Big Tech censorship and his office's celebration of Jones' ouster were not inconsistent.
"Being banned for breaking a clearly stated rule on platform manipulation is not the same as being banned for expressing controversial views," she wrote.
Jones has claimed she was fired last year for speaking out against orders to alter coronavirus numbers. 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.
However, Jones was officially fired from her position for insubordination; her personnel files 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.
EX-FLORIDA EMPLOYEE REBEKAH JONES ACCUSED OF ‘DISINFORMATION CAMPAIGN’ BY FORMER DEMOCRAT OFFICIAL
Multiple reports have dug into Jones' claims and found them wanting.
A CBS News affiliate in West Palm Beach, Florida, reported last month that Jones' claims were unsupported by evidence, and epidemiologists the outlet spoke to saw nothing significant about Florida's publicly available COVID numbers.
A deep dive by Cooke in 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," Cooke told MSNBC last month.
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Jones was arrested and charged with illegally hacking into Florida's messaging system in January and the charges are pending.