Brutal: Florida Democrat Takes Direct Aim at Notorious Anti-DeSantis COVID Conspiracy Theorist

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Posted: Jun 08, 2021 10:25 AM

Last time we checked in on the Rebekah Jones saga in Florida, National Review's Charles Cooke had published a surgical demolition of her conspiracy-mongering and pathological lies about COVID-19 in the state. For months, supposedly "respectable" Democrats seeking to challenge Governor Ron DeSantis in 2022 – along with far too many marks in the reflexively anti-DeSantis media – bought into Jones's bogus tale of a courageous whistleblower fired for revealing the truth. The actual truth is utterly unmoored from her story, which is a giant, brazen lie. Cooke explains: 

...It’s nonsense from start to finish. 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...there is an extremely good reason that nobody in the Florida Department of Health has sided with Jones. It’s the same reason that there has been no devastating New York Times exposé about Florida’s “real” numbers. That reason? There is simply no story here. By all accounts, Rebekah Jones is a talented developer of GIS dashboards. But that’s all she is. She’s not a data scientist. She’s not an epidemiologist. She’s not a doctor. She didn’t “build” the “data system,” as she now claims, nor is she a “data manager.” Her role at the FDOH was to serve as one of the people who export other people’s work—from sets over which she had no control—and to present it nicely on the state’s dashboard.

Click through to read about her provably false web of lies, the way she whips up online mobs of credulous defenders to attack her critics, and the string of firings, arrests, and criminal charges that litter her past. Indeed, the lies never cease. When police arrived at her home to execute a search warrant related to her latest alleged crime (stealing data), she accused them of pointing guns at her terrified children, promising a lawsuit. Bodycam footage promptly disproved this claim, and the lawsuit went away. Some in the press have at last learned their lesson about Jones and have shied away from amplifying her tinfoil hattery now that her credibility is more widely understood to be shot. But other reporters just can't quit her. The Miami Herald, a consistent attack dog against DeSantis, once again chose to give her a platform last week. Embarrassing (content warning for language): 


The references to Moskowitz are important. He's the progressive Democrat who ran Florida's emergency response during most of the pandemic. Despite strikingly different political views, he has worked hand-in-glove with DeSantis. When news organizations have smeared the state and the governor with falsehoods, Moskowitz has boldly spoken the truth. He's also directed broadsides at his fellow partisans who are so eager to assail DeSantis that they're willing to embrace conspiracy theories and made-up claims that fit their preferred, alternate reality (I'll once again note that the best proof that Florida hasn't cooked the books on COVID is that its non-manipulatable 'excess deaths' numbers during COVID are better than the national average). But in a Politico piece that effectively coincided with the Herald's latest hack job, Moskowitz finally took the gloves off against Jones specifically – and it's devastating: 

Moskowitz, a Democratic former state lawmaker appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, said in an interview that he made the decision in July to reach out to Jones and befriend her, starting a 10-month long rapport that, he said, kept him and his office out of her crosshairs. Moskowitz characterized his effort as a deliberate effort to keep Jones at bay even though the messages, which POLITICO obtained, have a friendly demeanor and dialogue that belie any attempt at deception. “With a platform of 400,000 Twitter followers, her reputation for bullying people on social media and her running a disinformation campaign that the national media echoed, she was more dangerous as an enemy than a friend,” Moskowitz said. “Everything she did was disinformation.” Moskowitz decided to speak out publicly after Jones leaked their Twitter exchanges to The Miami Herald. Jones also shared images of encrypted Signal messages between her and Moskowitz that would have disappeared, but she took screen-captured pictures of the private exchanges and also gave them to the paper. Moskowitz said he doesn’t have copies of those. It’s unclear why Jones shared her messages.

"Jones was well-regarded within the anti-DeSantis resistance, eager for any evidence to show that Florida had sky high death rates from the governor's more hands-off approach," the piece notes. But the facts said otherwise: "Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, however, showed that Florida’s Covid death rate remains solidly in the middle of the pack of states and below New York's, despite Jones' statements to the contrary." Moskowitz decided to deliberately cultivate a friendly, superficial relationship over online messages in order to shield himself and his agency from her "disinformation" campaigns, thus sparing himself the wrath of her fanatical followers. This succeeded for quite some time, but Jones decided to burn the bridge and leak their exchanges to narrative-addicted journalists at the Herald. More details

Moskowitz said his communications with Jones were akin to “keeping a fish on the hook.” And he said it worked. Jones didn’t criticize his agency and cause him huge social media headaches the way she did with two well-respected epidemiologists whom she attacked on social media: the University of South Florida’s Jason Salemi and the University of Florida’s Natalie Dean, both of whom Jones criticized for discounting the notion that Florida was intentionally hiding Covid-19 deaths. All of the unsubstantiated claims about Covid deaths in Florida were ultimately counterproductive for Democrats, said Moskowitz, because it built up the expectation that the state would be an utter disaster and it wasn’t, thereby benefitting DeSantis. “There was no doubt this was an effort to harm the governor,” Moskowitz told POLITICO. “But what they’ve done is the opposite: give him a national platform and attention that made him a political juggernaut in his party.” ... “She had a dedicated following, and whether it was fact or fiction, they treated everything she said as if it were in the Old Testament,” Moskowitz told POLITICO, adding that people who followed Jones came up with even more “outlandish” theories, including that the state was hiding the bodies of people who died from Covid-19. “And I would say I would know if we are hiding bodies in warehouses,” Moskowitz said. “I’m in charge of the warehouses.”

This passage is also quite something (hyperlinks in original): "[Jones] was eventually charged by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement with illegally gaining access to a computer system, a felony. The case remains outstanding. Jones also faces a criminal charge for allegedly stalking a former student at Florida State University, where Jones taught. In a self-published manifesto, Jones admitted having sex with the student. She then lost her FSU job before going to work designing the state Department of Health Covid dashboard, a job she was also fired from amid a dispute over posting data on the website. Jones has made claims about being forced to change data to make Florida's Covid situation appear better that she would later disavow or that independent media investigations found wanting." My goodness. Media outlets and individual journalists are welcome to keep up the charade that she is a serious and truthful person, fueled by their zeal to take down a politician they also despise. But they destroy their own credibility and humiliate themselves in continuing to do so.