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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Florida Gov. DeSantis angrily defends firing of state COVID-19 dashboard official

Posted By on Wed, May 20, 2020 at 9:01 PM

  • Photo via Ron DeSantis/Facebook

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday defended the firing of Department of Health employee Rebekah Jones and pushed back against media accounts calling her the chief architect of the state’s COVID-19 information “dashboard.” The governor also pointed to an issue of an unrelated criminal charge against Jones.

During a media availability in Orlando with Vice President Mike Pence, DeSantis said his administration has been transparent and that the COVID-19 data remains publicly available.

“Any insinuation otherwise is just typical partisan narrative trying to be spun,” DeSantis said. “And part of the reason is that because you got a lot of people (reporters) who wax poetically for weeks and weeks about how Florida was going to be just like New York. ‘Wait two weeks, Florida’s gonna be next.’ ‘Just like Italy, wait two weeks.’ Well, hell, we’re eight weeks away from that and it hasn’t happened.”
Jones, who was geographic information systems manager in the department’s Division of Disease Control and Health Protection, told Florida Today that she was fired from her post for refusing to manipulate COVID-19 data after being asked to do so.

The story made national headlines, and top Democrats in the state called for an investigation into her firing. DeSantis, however, downplayed her role in developing the online dashboard, saying she isn’t an epidemiologist and that she should have been fired after being charged with cyberstalking.

“I have a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment, so her supervisor dismissed her because of a lot of those reasons, and it was a totally valid way, but she should have been dismissed, long before that,” the governor said. A review of Leon County court documents shows that Jones was charged in July 2019 with two counts of cyberstalking and one count of sexual cyber harassment. Two of the charges have been closed, but court records show a cyberstalking charge remains open.

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