Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday ripped into the media for repeatedly predicting a statewide coronavirus disaster that "hasn't happened" — and the Republican added that "people just don't want to recognize" Florida has "succeeded" in fighting the pandemic "because it challenges their narrative."
What's the background?
During a news briefing in Orlando, DeSantis stood next to Vice President Mike Pence and fielded questions about the firing of Rebekah Jones from the state's Department of Health, WFLA-TV reported, adding that Jones — who played a role in managing Florida's COVID-19 dashboard — wrote a note to her former team claiming her ouster was for being too transparent.
At one point during the Q&A, DeSantis addressed the subject, saying "our data is available, our data is transparent" and that Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House coronavirus task force has spoken "multiple times about how Florida has the absolute best data."
Then the governor took the media to task: "Any insinuation otherwise is just typical partisan narrative trying to be spun. And part of the reason is that because you've got a lot of people in your profession who waxed poetically for weeks and weeks about how Florida was gonna 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."
After highlighting the state's lower death rate compared to numerous other states, DeSantis took one more shot at the media: "So we've succeeded, and I think that people just don't want to recognize it because it challenges their narrative, it challenges their assumption, so they've gotta try to find a boogeyman."
Gov. Ron DeSantis Rips media over COVID-19 coverage! youtu.be
The governor's office released the following statement on Jones and her dismissal, WFLA-TV reported:
Rebekah Jones' duties were to display data obtained by the Department's epidemiological staff. The team that created the graphics on the dashboard, which was made up by multiple people, received data that was provided by subject matter experts, including Senior Epidemiologists, Surveillance Epidemiologists, and a Senior Database Analyst.
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. 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.
Accuracy and transparency are always indispensable, especially during an unprecedented public health emergency such as COVID-19. Having someone disruptive cannot be tolerated during this public pandemic, which led the Department to determine that it was best to terminate her employment.
Please note that under Florida law correspondence sent to the Governor's Office, which is not confidential or exempt pursuant to chapter 119 of the Florida Statutes, is a public record made available upon request.
The station added that it reached out to Jones by email and phone and through Facebook, but "only received an automated message saying she was not doing interviews."