The story of disgraced data analyst Rebekah Jones is less about her than the state of the media.
In a lightly reported story yesterday, a former data mapping strategist for the state of Florida decided to drop a lawsuit she had filed against the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. This concerned an event the first week of this past December where FDLE agents confiscated computer equipment regarding a potential hacking of the state emergency messaging system. The suit alleged illegal search and seizure, despite the fact FDLE agents had a warrant to obtain the equipment and related items.
For a time last summer, Rebekah Jones was a media darling. She was a fixture on the major news networks, sat for numerous interviews, and was held up as the virtuous voice exposing corruption in the state government of Florida. At the time, Governor Ron DeSantis was vexing the media by having his state display better pandemic statistics and daring to free up his citizens while the press was bellowing about death and mayhem. Rebekah Jones was the perfect antidote.
But trouble was not far behind, beginning with the media love affair being a complete contradiction. It was at this time that the press was loudly critical of the president and constantly insistent that we listen to doctors and obey the science. Yet, it was during these lectures that they instead embraced this data analyst, ignoring the words of the medical experts in the state Department of Health, where she worked. This conflict is the first sign the press failed at its own mission.
Jones was making the claim that she had been instructed to alter the data and delete figures from the state’s COVID-19 portal in order to make the figures appear better than they were to justify reopening sectors in Florida. The story was tailor-made for the press, who desperately wanted to undermine DeSantis and make Florida appear as operating just as bad, or worse, than New York. CNN’s Chris Cuomo even gave Jones his forum in the hopes of helping his brother.
"Asking me to delete data, and hide information, and make it publicly inaccessible was a bad decision."
— Cuomo Prime Time (@CuomoPrimeTime) May 23, 2020
The details behind all of this eventually started to come out. They called Jones a scientist, or a doctor (she is neither), they said she was told to delete data (she had not been), and they claimed she built the entire state COVID database (it was a nationally provided portal template), all details verifiable by the press had they been so inclined (they were not so inclined). This resulted in serious misinformation from the press and false narratives that persist to this day. I detailed many of the problems, as well as Jones having a history of firings and legal charges brought by employers in a longer piece at Townhall.
The entire issue surrounded an instruction Jones received regarding data in the system. She was instructed to hold back on some data points — specifically regarding accurate dates being recorded — until they could be fully correlated with the data collected. For a brief period (less than 2 days) The Tampa Bay Times reported what the alleged fraudulent statistics entailed; a column representing the dates had been left blank in the time they were verifying the correct dates for the particular statistics. No other data had been taken down nor deleted, as Jones repeatedly claimed.
The mainstream press however has been content to run with these accusations, despite the rampant errors in the story and — just as significant — despite a lack of verifiable evidence to support their claims. To this day, people believe Florida COVID stats are fabricated, that a scientist in the Health Department was a whistleblower and that she was fired by the governor to hide his fraud. The truth is something else entirely; it is also something the national press has little interest in finding.
There has been no evidence ever provided of this data alteration. Local newspapers have been watching the state COVID portal meticulously, with no glaring errors setting off alarms and headlines. After her firing, Jones was touted as running her own independent portal that would expose the ‘’true’’ coronavirus figures. The only discrepancy she has ever provided involved less than 2,000 cases. These involved people who were out-of-state residents and their numbers were, in fact, tabulated but kept as a separate category.
Rebekah Jones has never delivered any credible evidence to support her claims of manipulated government data and has not shown any provable figures to dispute those from the official state record-keeping on COVID cases and deaths. She has been misrepresented by the press and has delivered false claims the media has embraced.
Yet, in a time of pandemic panic, when facts are precious, the press has been content to ignore Florida medical professionals and instead broadcast the farcical claims of an embittered data worker. When medical accuracy is of dire importance the press has instead engaged in journalistic malpractice.