Democratic congressional candidate Rebekah Jones shared an article on Instagram questioning the findings of an investigation into a whistleblower complaint she filed in 2020 about COVID-19 data.
Jones, challenging Rep. Rep. Matt Gaetz for Florida’s 1st Congressional District, who ran for statewide in 2020. He said he was fired from his job as a data scientist for the Florida Department of Health after he denied tampering with COVID-19 data.
Two months after her termination, Jones filed a complaint with the state’s Public Relations Commission and was later granted whistleblower status under the the government.
In September, the commission closed its investigation into the matter, saying it found no “just cause” that the health department allowed Jones to mistreat whistleblowers.
On October 26, Jones shared a photo of the commission’s report on his Instagram account that told a different story. In its release, the commission said it had “found” a violation of Florida’s whistleblower law; but the federal commission did not go that far. As of October 28, Jones has archived the post, which was removed from his public Instagram account.
PolitiFact compared a screenshot of Jones’ Instagram post with a report released by the committee. Jones says the version of the report shared on his campaign Instagram account is the “original, official copy” sent to him by the commission in September. But that’s among the differences that commission spokesman Frank Penela told PolitiFact.
Jones’ Instagram post featured the first page of the commission’s report. His campaign provided a copy of the full report to PolitiFact.
The main difference between the version of Jones’ document and what the commission says is the “official” document is the word “reveal.”
In the version shared by Jones, the document says it “revealed and demonstrated” a violation of Florida’s Whistleblower Act. (We added the explanation below.)
The Defendant testified and display a) a violation of the law that “creates and presents serious and specific harm to the health, safety, and welfare of the people;” b) or “criminal malpractice” as defined by the Law, “malpractice, corruption, excessive waste of public funds, fraud, fraud or abuse of Medicaid, without focus on the activities of an employee or customer of a firm or independent contractor.”
Jones also used the word “reveal” in a blog post and video on his campaign’s website about the commission’s report.
“This investigation looked at two things: the validity of my accusation and the cost of my release,” Jones said in the video. “At first, I showed that the government was defrauding people. However, I did not face any wrongdoing as determined by the (Whistleblower) Act after filing a complaint with the Commission.”
However, the word “revealed” does not appear in the government document. It says (emphasis added): “The defendant testified though: a) is a violation of the law …” and continues to indicate violations defined by state law.
The commission’s investigation found that Jones disclosed a violation that qualified him for whistleblower protection, not that he disclosed a violation of federal law.
Additionally, in the version of the Jones report, on page two there is a list of Florida-specific rules for the suspension of state employees; The government version does not include this.
There are also slight differences in format between the articles. In the state version, the word “Florida Statutes” is always italicized. But in three instances, in the version of Jones’ report, “Florida Statutes” were not written.
Jones’s version uses opening quotation marks twice while closing quotation marks are used in the government’s version.
When asked for details on the differences between the two versions, Jones said the government has made false claims against him before, so “we’re not surprised that the government will lie again.”
Metadata for the government’s version of the document shows the report was created at 11:03 a.m. on September 12, the same day the report was sent to Jones.
Jones shared a screenshot of the report filed by the Human Relations Commission on Jones’ complaint. The version of the report in the photograph has several differences from the official version issued by the commission.
Jones’ release states that the commission found that he had “exposed” a violation of Florida’s Whistleblower Act.
The word “revealed” is not in the official version of the report. It says Jones confessed to a violation of federal law that qualified him for whistleblowing protections.
We conclude this claim to be false.
CONSTRUCTION: Gaetz makes a misguided comparison of Jones’ ‘campaign’