Cosmopolitan magazine is under fire for publishing a glowing profile of Rebekah Jones, the controversial former Florida Department of Health data analyst who helped build the state’s coronavirus case tracker — before being fired last year for alleged insubordination.
Jones was dismissed for repeated insubordination and later arrested on charges she illegally accessed a Florida Department of Health computer system. She repeatedly claimed, without evidence, that she was fired for refusing to manipulate COVID-19 data to bolster Gov. Ron DeSantis’s push to reopen the state.
The piece, headlined, “Rebekah Jones Tried to Warn Us About COVID-19. Now Her Freedom Is on the Line,” was loaded with glamourous photos and portrayed Jones as a heroic truth-telller about the virus, gushing about how she pursued a science career out of an appetite for “solving problems” and calling her unafraid to “stand up to authority.”
The fawning article painted Jones as a “whistleblower,” but critics of the feature strongly disputed that description.
“Rebekah Jones is not a ‘whistleblower’ — she is a publicly dishonest conspiracy theorist with a dodgy past. She quite demonstrably broke the law. At this point, media orgs are being willfully irresponsible by giving her such puffy coverage,” journalist Mark Hemingway responded.
Cosmopolitan also praised Jones’ now-panned media tour in 2020, recounting that she took on DeSantis “on CNN, NPR, CBS, and Twitter, each time coming off as self-assured, almost bored, wildly in command of the science – and not at all intimidated by the pugilistic governor who seemed obsessed with discrediting her.” Among Jones’ interviewers was CNN’s Chris Cuomo, whose puffy sitdowns with his big brother, Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, around the same time period brought unprecedented embarrassment to the liberal network.
The piece, penned by Florida-based journalist Emily Bloch, also strangely tied DeSantis’ approval rating to Jones’ criticisms, calling her a “pandemic cult hero, a sort of Floridian Fauci.”
Jones surrendered to the Leon County detention facility in January after law enforcement officials issued a warrant for her arrest on allegations that she illegally accessed a Florida Department of Health (FDOH) computer system. She was charged with one count of offenses against users of computers, computer systems, computer networks, and electronic devices, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) said.
The FDLE said the investigation began Nov. 10 after the agency received a complaint from the Health Department that someone illegally accessed a state emergency-alert messaging system, known as ReadyOp. Agents said they found a message sent from Jones’s residence in Tallahassee.
They said that evidence retrieved from a search warrant Dec. 7 showed Jones illegally accessed the state system and sent a message to approximately 1,750 people. They also said she downloaded confidential Health Department data and saved it to her devices.
Describing Jones’ checkered past that includes accusations of cyberstalking one of her students and arrests on charges of trespassing and criminal mischief, Cosmopolitan boasted that “she owns it.”
“These issues are not quite germane to the question of whether she’s telling the truth about Florida’s coronavirus data, but they still raise serious doubts about her reliability as a self-proclaimed ‘truth-teller,’” the Washington Examiner’s Becket Adams wrote earlier this month.
Twitter user PoliMath, himself an aggregator and tracker of coronavirus data, blasted the feature in a lengthy thread that called Jones an “activist” and mocked reporters who take her seriously.
“The gap between the people who actually know things and the journalists who drool over telling only the activist’s side of a story is no longer surprising, though it is ridiculous,” he wrote. “Before this is over, Jennifer Lawrence is going to be playing Rebekah Jones in some ridiculous movie with Christian Bale as Ron DeSantis strangling puppies and spraying COVID into old folks homes.”
PoliMath then linked to an entry in his newsletter that detailed “what happened with Rebekah Jones from someone knew of her before this happened & who watched it happening in real time.”
Cosmopolitan did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Meanwhile, Jones praised the piece on Twitter and retweeted others who complimented it.
Still others bashed the story on Twitter.
Fox News’ David Aaro contributed to this report.
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