In public, Florida’s agriculture commissioner, Nikki Fried, has backed off a little from promoting the conspiracy theorist Rebekah Jones — despite Jones having loudly endorsed Fried for governor, and having insisted repeatedly that she is “joining the campaign” and will be “campaigning WITH her.” Indeed, as The Capitolist reported in June, Fried and her team have gone completely silent on Jones since it became clear to anyone with a pulse that she was a liability:
Max Flugrath, a spokesman for Fried’s campaign, did not respond to questions seeking comment on the matter. The campaign declined to confirm Jones’ claims and also declined to confirm Fried had actively sought support from Jones.
Notably, three hours after Jones made the announcement on Twitter, Fried still had not acknowledged the endorsement on social media or anywhere else.
But at the campaign events she is doing around Florida, Fried seems to be singing a different tune. Asked on Monday whether she would hire Jones if she became governor, Fried said that “she and I definitely, you know, communicate on a pretty consistent basis,” and submitted that Jones “brought a valuable voice during a time when we were not getting information from the from the Department of Health.”
It is, of course, utterly preposterous for Fried to have relied upon a fabricator such as Rebekah Jones for any information whatsoever, given that (a) Fried serves in Florida’s cabinet, and thus could have found anything she wanted simply by walking a few feet from her office into the relevant department and asking, and that (b) Jones used precisely the same data as did the State of Florida, but filtered it ways that violated the CDC’s guidelines in order to make the state look bad. At the time Jones was spreading her misinformation, Florida’s emergency management department was run by Jared Moskowitz, a progressive Democrat who would have been quite happy to talk to Fried about Jones’s claims — and, for that matter, did talk publicly about them when asked. “You may see a conspiracy theory and you want it to be true and you believe it to be true and you forward it to try to make it be true,” Moskowitz said earlier this year, “but that doesn’t make it true.”
More recently, Moskowitz has described Jones’s claims as “running a disinformation campaign.”
“Everything she did,” Moskowitz added, “was disinformation.” It was, yes. And for Fried, that seems to be an attractive feature, rather than a troubling bug.