My magazine piece in this issue is on Rebekah Jones, the disgraced Floridian dashboard manager who has been almost single-handedly responsible for the widespread — and entirely false — belief that Florida has been “fudging” its COVID numbers. As I note, having combed through hundreds of pages of official documents (and Jones’s own “manifesto”):
Jones isn’t a martyr; she’s a myth-peddler. She isn’t a scientist; she’s a fabulist. She’s not a whistleblower; she’s a good old-fashioned confidence trickster. And, like any confidence trickster, she understands her marks better than they understand themselves. On Twitter, on cable news, in Cosmopolitan, and beyond, Jones knows exactly which buttons to push in order to rally the gullible and get out her message. Sober Democrats have tried to inform their party about her: “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, but that doesn’t make it true,” warns Jared Moskowitz, the progressive Democrat who has led Florida’s fight against COVID. But his warnings have fallen on deaf ears.
Jones is seriously bad news. Far from being an exception, her firing by the Florida Department of Health was the norm. This is a person who has accused the African-American epidemiologist who is currently serving as Florida’s deputy secretary of health of being a “murderer.” This is a person who has called the Florida Department of Law Enforcement the “Gestapo.” Worst of all, this is a person who has been either dismissed or charged with a crime pretty much wherever she has gone. In Louisiana, she was charged with assaulting a police officer, and she avoided multiple misdemeanor convictions only by entering into a pre-trial intervention program. In Florida, she was fired from FSU for having sex with a student in her class. She also was fired from the Department of Health for insubordination. And she is currently awaiting two trials — one on a felony charge for illegally accessing government systems and downloading private personnel data, the other on a misdemeanor stalking charge that was initially subject to deferred prosecution but is now live again as a result of her other behavior.
That Jones was so widely promoted — including by gubernatorial hopefuls Nikki Fried and Charlie Crist — is a scandal. It’s the only scandal here, in fact.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Unlike the main piece to which it links, this promotional post originally stated that Rebekah Jones avoided a “felony conviction only by entering into a pre-trial intervention program.” In fact, in that case Jones was charged with four misdemeanors, including two counts of “battery of a police officer,” one count of “resisting an officer,” and one count of “entry or remaining after being forbidden.” Jones has been charged with a felony, but that was the result of a separate incident, for which she is currently awaiting trial in Florida.