Wednesday, August 31, 2022
Tuesday, August 30, 2022
When I was asked to present misleading data to the public during COVID-19, I refused. As the head of Florida's public COVID-19 data and surveillance systems, my oath was to the people of Florida -- not politicians.
Governor Ron DeSantis then outed me as the Florida COVID-19 Whistleblower to the world days later. He defamed me, attacked me, and continued his lies about how safe the state was to reopen - even though every expert inside and outside our Department of Health agreed it was disastrous.
And it was.
Despite the attacks, the threats, the harassment, I stepped forward to lead the state through the cloud of misery DeSantis inflicted on our people and our state during the pandemic.
I continued that work for nearly two years - first by helping organizations and governments in East Africa build their own data and surveillance systems, then by creating the
The success I found in filling the role our state and federal leaders failed to do became a constant reminder to DeSantis how weak and vulnerable he was.
After all, if a "girl with a laptop," as he called me, can do that much damage to his reputation, then he wasn't all that popular to begin with.
He became obsessed. He sent more than 4,000 emails specifically about me and my whistleblower case against the state in the year after I was fired just to his core staff and administration.
Seven months after I was fired, my home was raided at gunpoint by nearly a dozen officer who did not have a warrant. They held us hostage for three hours while they waited to get a warrant, not handing it to me until they were finally leaving.
They made my kids wait outside in the cold. They threatened to shoot us. They pushed around my then-11 year old son in the doorway with an AR-15 to his back
I fought back.
I was not going to let an autocrat with his eyes on the White House silence any scientist -- especially not me.
I worked hard to earn my education and my place in the scientific community.
I grew up in one of the poorest counties in Mississippi - the second of four kids to teenage parents with no money.
I earned a full scholarship to Syracuse University. Then I earned my Master's degree at LSU. Then I moved to Florida to start my Ph.D.
No K-Mart Hitler wanna-be was going to kill the people in my state and scare me into never speaking out again with his failed strong-man intimidation tactics.
Challenging a state is never easy. It can be lonely, isolating, terrifying -- especially when you already know that they'll break into your home without a warrant and point semi-automatic weapons at your young children.
And I won.
The state granted me official whistleblower protection - almost one year exactly from when I filed my complaint. The complaint itself is still pending with the Florida Commissions on Human Relations (two years and counting) but getting protection was a massive victory - not only for me, but for oppressed scientific voices everywhere.
More recently, an internal audit of COVID-19 data found everything I said was true - to a degree even I had not appreciated before the report was issued.
I had spent two years watching politicians not only lie but also kill to try to climb the ladder. The worst among them - DeSantis - made it his personal mission to try to destroy my life but failed at every possible turn. I felt at times like I had an invisible layer of kevlar around me because every shot DeSantis took missed or barely scraped the skin.
Now I'm back home in Florida, where I've been running a freak-of-nature campaign against Matt Gaetz that currently has us leading him in the polls by six points.
We're turning the tide for Democrats in an otherwise blood red area, though our efforts haven't gone without resistance from within the party.
Though DeSantis' cronies couldn't find anyone who lives in the district to primary me, they did find someone from another district - who has never lived in what is now District 1 - to run a sham campaign that does nothing but harass, stalk and spread the same debunked DeSantis propaganda from two years ago.
We're here to save our democracy from predators like Matt Gaetz and dangerous dictators like Ron DeSantis. This isn't the time to play, and when I fight, the gloves are always off.
With the war-chest Matt Gaetz will be bringing into the general election, we need to start pulling in major funding now so we're not playing catchup in the leadup to November. Which is why I need your help.
Because let's face facts: America has never really been a friendly place to women and girls. Not really. Sure, there are certainly worse places, but why is the United States settling for the bottom of the developed world when it comes to protecting girls and women?
The laws governing our bodies, our families, our choices, our daughters, our futures continue to erode our faith in and hope for this nation, taking our freedoms and permitting the government to make decisions for us that are, frankly, none of the government’s business.
This isn’t just about pregnancy or birth control.
It’s about a culture of objectifying women from a young age, permitted and even promoted under a quilt of uneven, unequal, and unjust laws across our nation.
Consider child marriage, which is legal across most of the United States. The data show that 87% of child marriages occur between underage girls and adult men. Some girls have been married as young as 10. In most of those states, minors cannot legally divorce or even separate from their spouse once married. They’re trapped.
In Florida, there is no minimum age for child marriage, so long as either the parents and judges approve, and there are loopholes and legal exceptions made for pregnant girls. So, if an 80-year-old-man wants a child bride, he can escape charges related to his pedophilia if he simply gets a judge or the parents of young child to agree to a marriage.
Our region of Florida sees some of the highest rates of human and sex trafficking in the nation.
Perhaps the issue is so pervasive because we have an incumbent representative who was the only person in congress to vote against a bill to crack down on trafficking, who was been the target of a sex-trafficking investigation for more than two years, and whose new sister-in-law even came forward to protect her family, calling Matt Gaetz a “literal pedophile.”
And without getting too far into the statistics on rape in America, we’re first in the developed world for rates of sexual harassment, assault, and battery. Nearly half of women in the United States reported experiencing some form of sexual violence in their lifetime.
1 in 5 women report being raped in their lifetime. Nearly half of those rapes occurred when the victims were minors.
How have we gotten to this place, where girls’ lives matter so little and women are forced to carry such heavy burdens for a society that does not value them?
Did you know that women hold only one-quarter of the seats in Congress?
Even though women outnumber men in the general population, voter registration and voter turnout, we make up less than one-fourth of elected officials in nearly every level of office.
Married women are less likely to vote than women who are divorced, widowed, separated or have never been married, though female turnout generally increases with both age and education level.
We’re not electing women. In the shadow of Roe v Wade and protections we once had, the consequences of electing too few women to positions of power could not be clearer.
If we don’t stand together and fight for our autonomy, our dignity, our independence, then our daughters may very well find themselves without any of it.
I will write legislation to end child marriage, crack down on trafficking, and see that sexual predators who target children are charged with hate crimes and never able to return to society.
I will vote to codify rights that protect and respect our right to make decisions about our own bodies, ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, and finally make us equal in the eyes of our constitution.
Matt Gaetz not only doesn’t support those measures – he was the only person in Congress to vote against some of them.
We need your help. And it couldn't come fast enough. With the election only four months away, we're putting our faith in YOU to make the difference in this race.
In solidarity, Rebekah Jones