The Tampa Bay Times editorial board took aim at Gov. Ron DeSantis, circling the wagons around Rebekah Jones, calling the incident a “smear job by DeSantis’ office” to elevate Jones beyond her credentials and actual contributions.
“Gov. Ron DeSantis loves to share praise from Washington about Florida’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak. But when that narrative is threatened, his administration’s response is to temporarily hide the numbers, fire the data manager who objected and then smear her,” the TBT article begins. “This is fast becoming the governor’s routine: Claim to be open while hiding the facts, question the credibility of information or individuals who cloud his success story, and criticize the media for reporting the complete picture.”
As the Times calls Jones a data manager, the geologist and professional mapper is treated at the architect of data dashboard as she claimed, despite mimicking, if not outright copying, the John Hopkins creation.
As the Tallahassee Reports noted, the Times is not alone: “Media outlets who published the false “architect” claim: Florida Today, The Daily Beast, New York Post, The Guardian, CBS 12 News, The Hill, Miami Herald, ClickOrlando, WEAR-TV”
Jones has no expertise in epidemiology, biology, or even public health.
Her claims removal of “reported symptoms” dating back to the first of the year and modifying the database to reflect that type of reporting and not testing dates.
Data was unavailable for less than a few days as experts were validating and verifying some of the facts. Jones unilaterally changing the data is indeed insubordination.
According to the DeSantis Administration:
“Rebekah 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,” DeSantis spokeswoman Helen Ferre said in a statement. “The blatant disrespect for the professionals who were working around the clock to provide the important information for the COVID-19 website was harmful to the team.”
Back to the Times, focusing on this data change as significant.
The Times states: “These first reports of symptoms could be immensely helpful in tracing the virus’ early spread throughout Florida” before making an accurate assessment: “The economy won’t fully re-engage until Floridians and tourists are convinced that the state has a handle on the outbreak. That starts with dealing openly and honestly with the public in these unprecedented times. Just as he did by initially withholding information about coronavirus deaths in nursing homes, DeSantis is severely testing that confidence.”
Media hysterics are in full throttle if there is an attack on a Republican and DeSantis has angered the left-wing as Florida defied the shutdown pressure and the Sunshine state didn’t collapse into a dystopic New York City below the Mason-Dixon line.
While the data argument should continue and the Times closes with an honest statement about the importance of data, what else that matters is media integrity and not fueling blind hated and animosity towards the decision makers like DeSantis…just because of the letter after their name.