State Watch

Florida health scientist after home raided: ‘I will continue to speak truth to power’

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Rebekah Jones, the Florida scientist whose home was raided by state police last week amid her efforts to highlight the state’s coronavirus response, published an op-ed on Wednesday in the Miami Herald in which she promises she will “continue to speak truth to power,” undeterred by the “Gestapo-like twist” she and her family experienced.

Florida state police raided Jones’s Tallahassee home last week and confiscated her computer equipment under the suspicion she had unauthorized access to the state Department of Health’s (DOH) messaging system after being fired for insubordination in May.

“I accepted many months ago that being a whistle-blower and critic of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ mismanagement of COVID-19 would likely cost me my freedom,” Jones writes in the Herald. “I never expected armed police to enter my home to take my equipment and point guns at my children.”

Jones was fired from DOH after she says she was asked to manipulate and withhold certain data on the COVID-19 pandemic. The dashboard she created there had been lauded for its high quality.

“When DeSantis’ team and DOH officials ordered my termination in May, shortly after I discussed filing a whistleblower complaint regarding DOH administrators’ data secrecy and manipulation, the state thrust me into the public spotlight,” Jones wrote. “DeSantis attacked me in front of Vice President Mike Pence, allowed his press secretary to spread defamatory statements about me and tried to undermine my expertise, education and accomplishments.”

In the link provided in the piece, the Republican governor can be seen disparaging Jones for charges filed against her in July 2019 over allegedly cyber stalking a former boyfriend. According to police, Jones published a 68-page document about an affair she had with a student while teaching at Florida State University. The student is allegedly the father of her youngest child.

Jones in the opinion piece recounts the home raid, describing how police officers entered her home with guns and took away equipment and cellphones. According to Jones, her independently run COVID-10 information dashboard “The COVID Monitor” was down for less than a day.

“But the emotional wounds from the raid and the message it sent to potential whistle-blowers trouble me,” writes Jones.

“Attacking scientists and whistleblowers is as American as apple pie. Any arguments to the contrary are naive and contrite,” she added.

“But people’s refusal to be silenced is equally American. To all the would-be whistleblowers considering coming forward, but who might be scared by the raid on my home: Never let the fear of retaliation temper your desire to be a good, honest person. I will continue to speak truth to power, to provide critical information on coronavirus and environmental issues, and never allow a man so devoid of empathy and humanity silence my voice,” she wrote.

A report published by the Sun Sentinel earlier this month detailed how DeSantis’s administration attempted to mislead the public and withhold information about the coronavirus, reportedly telling health department spokespeople to stop talking about the pandemic until after the presidential election.

Jones asserts that details about the state’s obstructions of coronavirus data will continue to come out as former employees come forward.

She writes, “Until then, I will be here, focusing on the data.”

Tags coronavirus data coronavirus misinformation COVID-19 pandemic in Florida Florida Florida Republicans Miami Herald Miami Herald Mike Pence Rebekah Jones Ron DeSantis

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