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Statement | In Praise of COVID Whistleblower Rebekah Jones

Tim Whitehouse

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In Praise of COVID Whistleblower Rebekah Jones 

Yesterday, the home of COVID whistleblower Rebekah Jones was raided by Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents who pointed guns at her family and children and confiscated her computer and other electronic equipment, including her phone. 

Rebekah Jones | Photo Georebekah

Rebekah Jones is former Florida Department of Health data scientist known nationally for shining light on corruption, ineptitude and abuse of power in Florida’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.    

She was terminated after complaining that the data about Florida’s COVID-19 infection rates were being manipulated to make the state appear safe to visit in May. She claimed that she was fired because she refused to “manually change data to drum up support for the plan to reopen.” 

Jones was the architect of Florida’s COVID-19 dashboard, which has been widely praised for its effectiveness and accessibility. Her work earned her a spot on Forbes 40 under 40 this year

Florida claims the raid was necessary because it was investigating a complaint that someone mysteriously sent an unauthorized message last month to the state’s emergency public health and medical coordination team, reading “speak up before another 17,000 people are dead. You know this is wrong. You don’t have to be a part of this. Be a hero. Speak out before it’s too late.”

Jones claims the state confiscated all her electronic equipment to obtain information on the sources she was working with to gather her data and information. 

At PEER, we know that retaliation against whistleblowers is widespread and poses a significant barrier to government accountability. We also know that government employees who disclose information often encounter ginned up criminal investigations and prosecutions.  

This type of government retaliation aims to discredit those who speak truth to power and make lower-level employees think twice about speaking up when they witness misconduct. 

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, this raid has all the earn marks of this type of heavy-handed response designed to discredit a fearless critic and to send a message to those who have been working with her. 

Rebekah Jones is a brave individual who deserves our praise and support.  She has exposed abuses of power and government wrongdoing to save lives and make government more accountable to the people. 

She is the real hero in this story.