One day after Rebekah Jones’ sensational claims came unraveled about the reasons for her removal from her Department of Health post, Florida’s top media outlets are, as predicted, digging in on the idea that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis isn’t providing the full story.
But it’s media outlets like the Tampa Bay Times, CBS 12 News, and NPR that are suppressing the facts and attempting to cast doubt on DeSantis, rather than admitting that they took the bait from a dishonest, disgruntled employee. They ran with the false narrative that she’d been fired because she refused to delete or manipulate COVID-19 data to support the governor’s reopening plan.
As we wrote yesterday:
They [the media] will double down on the idea that DeSantis’s administration is withholding / manipulating / deleting / altering data. That, too is totally false. But mark these words, the embarrassment of touting Rebekah Jones as their coronavirus martyr will quickly fade into the mainstream media memory hole.
It’s already happening.
The Tampa Bay Times, for example, published a defensive, nitpicky story in which they ignore the obvious – that Rebekah Jones is lying – and instead take DeSantis to task for misstating the facts about her criminal record and then imply that he’s still engaged in some kind of cover-up.
Let’s start with the Times’ infuriating headline: “DeSantis reveals criminal record against fired data manager, but questions remain.”
First, the headline invokes the image of DeSantis on some grand stage, whipping off the curtain draped over Jones’ criminal records. “Ta-da!” We can almost hear him saying the words.
No. The fact is that DeSantis mentioned her criminal record in response to some plucky reporter who thought he’d ask Vice President Mike Pence about the Rebekah Jones firing. What better way to breathe new life into a dying conspiracy theory than to sucker the Vice President of the United States into answering a question about it?
The question was asked, and DeSantis jumped in to short-circuit the obvious attempt to ensnare Pence. The exchange took place about an hour after the story of Jones’ criminal record broke here at The Capitolist, so it’s not like the information was sealed in some impenetrable government vault. It was out there and available for the media, including the Times. So, no, DeSantis didn’t “reveal” Jones’ extensive criminal history. He referred to it in a broader response about why she was fired.
The Times had every opportunity to do basic research into Rebekah Jones that would have instantly revealed that she has a history of insubordination and other criminal behavior – charges that raise serious, direct questions about her credibility, and lend credence to the DeSantis Administration’s explanation for her removal from the job.
So that’s the first part of the Times headline. Let’s deal with the “but questions remain” part.
That’s actually pretty easy: No, questions don’t remain.
They’ve been asked, and they’ve been answered. The Times is straight up lying to its readers when it claims that questions remain. Just like we told you they would at the end of yesterday’s story.
The “questions” worthy of the headline take a back seat to paragraph after paragraph of rehashing Jones’ sensational claims, critiques of DeSantis and the time he took to respond to media questions about Jones (almost certainly because he had no idea who she was, but accepting this obvious truth undercuts the media conspiracy theory, too), and “fact checking” DeSantis’s statements about Jones’ criminal history.
Yawn. Nobody cares. We want to know what questions remain. The stuff mentioned in the headline?
To see which “questions” the Times believes still remain, readers are forced to scroll past 32 paragraphs of this drivel.
Here’s the paragraph with those questions:
Still, neither DeSantis nor the Department of Health have addressed why the data was taken down, nor has either office given specific cases of insubordination by Jones.
Yes, actually, they have addressed that question.
The Times told us in Tuesday’s story exactly why the data was taken down:
According to internal emails reviewed by the Times, Department of Health I.T. Director Craig Curry emailed Rebekah Jones just before 5 p.m. on May 4. He cited Dr. Carina Blackmore, director for the Division of Disease Control and Health Protection.
“Per Dr. Blackmore, disable the ability to export the data to files from the dashboard immediately. We need to ensure that dates (date fields) in all objects match their counterpart on the PDF line list published,” Curry wrote.
The Times nitpicks this explanation, claiming that it doesn’t fully answer their question because the line of data they care about appears on one place but not in the PDF. So they default back to conspiracy theory thinking that it must be an evasive answer rather than…*GASP!*…the actual reason.
And don’t forget this part, from the next day of this rather boring saga:
Then, just after 6 p.m., the I.T. director emailed both Jones and Dr. Blackmore. “Re-enable for now please.”
So whatever data the Times thinks they were blocked from one day in early May, they regained access to 27 hours later. Asked and answered.
Now let’s deal with the second of the “Questions that Still Remain.” The Times demands to know specific cases of insubordination by Jones. You know, so they can judge for themselves whether or not she was really “insubordinate.” After all, people in DeSantis’s administration took down a single column of data to for 27 hours, so they obviously can’t be trusted with human resources decisions.
Enough snark. Let;s start with the fact Jones was emailing reporters without permission via a public listserv. That’s right. She was a “source” for reporters, so of course they are rushing to her defense when she got removed. Jones also posted public comments on COVID-19 stories published by the news media, including this story by the Tallahassee Democrat, (Jones has since deleted the post) in which she claimed credit for the dashboard – again, without permission from the Department of Health.
Jones also maintains a personal blog at GeoJones.org, in which she posted her own analysis of COVID-19 trends back on March 30th, again without permission from the Department of Health.
Whether or not the Times became aware of the instances noted above, they acknowledged the administration’s stated reason for her removal from the job in their Tuesday story:
…Jones “exhibited a repeated course of insubordination during her time with the Department, including her unilateral decisions to modify the Department’s COVID-19 dashboard without input or approval from the epidemiological team or her supervisors.”
The bottom line is that the Times has no human resources oversight of the employees at the Department of Health, and despite their demands for transparency, aren’t entitled to a breakdown of Jones’ insubordinate actions while employed there. Some of those details probably violate her privacy, anyway.
As predicted yesterday, this will continue for a few more days, as the media exhausts their defense of the indefensible in Rebekah Jones. But they’ll continue to pretend that DeSantis is hiding something. This is why some of these awful media outlets, which once held so much sway over their communities and the state of Florida, are dying. Nobody needs their biased reporting.
Nobody, that is, except Democrats and Democrat media outlets looking to score political points.