Legacy media darling Rebekah Jones rose to prominence by claiming Florida was manipulating its COVID data. As has been clear from the beginning, Jones’s claims were meritless.
The Florida Department of Health’s Office of the Inspector General determined that Jones’s allegations about Florida manipulating data were "unsubstantiated" and "unfounded" and that the officials she accused of manipulating data were cleared of wrongdoing. Jones had claimed that she was asked to falsify the raw COVID data and that she was fired for refusing to do so.
Jones never had access to the raw COVID data, and her story of martyrdom changed more than once. She was instead fired for repeatedly breaking the rules, and she was later arrested for illegally accessing the state’s emergency alert messaging system and downloading confidential information. Jones also asserted without evidence that Florida was covering up COVID deaths. When she calculated her own death total for the state, using a method that went against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation for accurate calculations, she ended up with a total that was just 2% higher than Florida’s official numbers.
None of this stopped the parade of legacy media lining up to promote Jones, though, because she was attacking the state's Republican governor, Ron DeSantis. NPR, MSNBC, the New York Times, CNN, and Florida media outlets such as the Miami Herald all uncritically parroted Jones’s accusations despite the fact that she never offered any sort of evidence to support them. CNN in particular made Jones a regular guest, with Erin Burnett regularly bringing Jones on to her show.
Of course, Jones appeared on the show of former CNN host Chris Cuomo the most. Cuomo, after all, was trying to distract from the coverage of his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and his failed handling of COVID. Unlike Florida, New York was actually manipulating COVID data for political reasons.
Jones was a conspiracy theorist from the start. Her claims were clearly designed to take advantage of a media environment that prioritizes attacking Republicans over pursuing the truth. Jones went on to push a GoFundMe page to take advantage of naive liberals on social media and run for Congress. There has not been, and there will not be, any self-reflection among legacy media for promoting her, and they will happily stick cameras in the face of the next conspiracy theorist to come along.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story claimed Rebekah Jones was interviewed by Jake Tapper. That is false. Tapper covered Jones but did not interview her.