Jones, a former state health official in Florida, became a media darling last year during the coronavirus pandemic over her explosive claim that she was pressured by the DeSantis administration to alter the state’s data in order to push for reopening. But reporting in May from National Review thoroughly debunked her allegations.
The fired state employee, who is facing felony cybercrime charges for allegedly hacking a state messaging service, has since launched a congressional bid to unseat Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., which earned valuable airtime on Wednesday’s installment of “The Lead.”
“In our politics lead, a race to watch and next year’s midterm elections,” Tapper began the report. “Florida’s first congressional district… has been solidly red since 1992. Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz holds a seat. He is, of course, now facing potential legal troubles and a challenger who made her name, defying the law herself.”
“Rebecca Jones, the data scientist fired in the scandal over COVID case numbers from Florida’s Health Department,” Tapper continued. “Jones became something of a darling to critics of Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis. You might recall her dramatic arrest last December or her stint in jail in January but But since then, Jones has been suspended from Twitter and… she’s running for Congress and in a contest full of drama.”
CNN correspondent Tom Foreman began the largely uncritical report about Jones by echoing her campaign attacks against DeSantis and Gaetz, who she called “cruel, corrupt and criminal.”
“All I’ve ever wanted to do is help people,” Jones told Foreman. “And if being a public servant right now means unseating Matt Gaetz and helping represent the people of Florida more fairly, that’s where it goes.”
Foreman acknowledged Jones’ Democratic campaign was “complicated,” referring to her as a “fire-breathing critic” of DeSantis after she came forward leveling damning claims against the Florida governor.
“What I was asked to do was illegal and immoral and I wouldn’t do it,” Jones said without receiving any pushback from CNN.
The report then revisited the dramatic December 2020 police raid of her home, allowing her to characterize the incident as the DeSantis administration attempting to “intimidate” her and noting she was charged “anyway.”
Foreman highlighted Jones’ critics like former Florida Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz, a Democrat, who accused her of “running a disinformation campaign,” but did not go into details as to why her allegations were ultimately a fake conspiracy.
“I’ve got two kids. I had a career. I can’t get hired. No one wants to hire a whistleblower,” Jones told CNN.
“Look back at the last year and a half of her life and that’s what a lot of this is, explosive claims and impassioned denials,” Foreman told Tapper. “And what any of this means to her campaign hopes., well, who knows, Jake. But we do know this: subsequent reporting has shown that Florida has tried to at very least contain numbers that might make the state’s pandemic response look bad.
Foreman went on to downplay Jones’ Twitter suspension, saying there’s a “huge debate” over whether she “posted an article in favor of her position too many times and that broke some kind of rule” versus “disinformation” when in reality she was for purchasing other Twitter accounts to amplify the favorable report about her.
Tapper, who has been outspoken against Republicans who push what the media has dubbed “The Big Lie” about the 2020 presidential election, once had a Twitter spat with Jones, who accused the CNN anchor of “pushing schools to reopen for months, despite the science” and having a “very selective concern for human life.”
“This is a lie, I’ve been saying school districts should follow the science and listen to health experts. Period,” Tapper fired back in February. “The ‘human life’ smear is hideously false. Folks lionizing Ms Jones because of animus for DeSantis need to understand how unreliable her word is.”
Despite the not-so-hard-hitting report, Jones slammed Tapper and CNN in a Facebook post on Thursday, denying the claim that she had withdrawn a lawsuit she had filed against the state of Florida over the police raid even though reports back in February show she did.
“Tapper doesn’t like me because I called out his hypocrisy on Twitter, Jones wrote. “He’s petty enough to commit slander because I pointed out that he has a selective concern about life in the context of veterans, school teachers and students, and was pushing anti science.”
“I think the public should have a right to file criminal complaints against media agencies who intentionally or recklessly publish false and misleading information against individuals with the intent to harm,” Jones added.
CNN did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment
And it wasn’t as though Tapper was unaware of her debunked conspiracy theory. He retweeted National Review’s reporting earlier this year but never addressed it on-air after his program helped promote her false narrative.
He also retweeted one of her critics, local Florida reporter Jay O’Brien, who wrote, “The thing about the Rebekah Jones saga: there’s no evidence to support what she’s claimed. Simply none and we’ve all looked. But that won’t stop people on Twitter from taking her at her word. So, this will never truly be over until people just stop paying attention.”
CNN heavily hyped the conspiracy theorist last year, making at least separate on-air appearances from May 2020 through December 2020. Notably, she was interviewed by CNN primetime anchor Chris Cuomo at least five times all while the nursing home scandal plaguing his brother, then-Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, was brewing.