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Rebekah Jones Receives Whistleblower Status, Misinformation On Spanish-Language Radio, Bitcoin Hype

Former Florida Department of Health data scientist Rebekah Jones, 31, raises her hand to speak during an online Leon County Circuit Court hearing Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, involving an illicit message transmitted over a government network.
Courtesy Rebekah Jones to NPR
Former Florida Department of Health data scientist Rebekah Jones, 31, raises her hand to speak during an online Leon County Circuit Court hearing Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, involving an illicit message transmitted over a government network. State criminal investigators suspect she was responsible and searched her home in Tallahassee and seized computers and cell phones. She has denied that she wrote or sent the message.

Florida's COVID-19 whistleblower. Misinformation coming from Miami’s Spanish-language media. Plus, a major Bitcoin conference hits South Florida.

On this Monday, June 7, episode of Sundial

Rebekah Jones Receives Whistleblower Status

Last year, police raided the house of Rebekah Jones, Florida’s former COVID-19 data expert.

They were carrying out a warrant as part of an investigation about an unauthorized message sent on a state communications system that asked people to speak out publicly about the state’s COVID strategies. They took computers and phones.

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Jones said she lost her job with the Florida Department of Health because she refused to manipulate data to suggest the state was ready to start reopening. Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration said she "exhibited a repeated course of insubordination during her time with the department."

Recently, the inspector Ggeneral for the Department of Health announced that Jones was given the designation of whistleblower.

“That designation [is] protected by Florida law that says ‘If you see something, basically say something. If you suspect something is going wrong, while you're working, say something. Interestingly, you don't actually have to be correct about what you're saying. If anyone retaliated against you for raising an issue with your bosses or a suspected issue with your bosses, that would be a violation of Florida law,” said Miami Herald reporter Sarah Blaskey.

Officials also found “reasonable cause” to suspect that there may have been some wrongdoing by a boss or someone named in Jones’ case.

“To be clear, that could just be retaliation. It doesn't have to mean that there's any data manipulation. It could just be the act of retaliation. We don't know what that specifically would be,” Blaskey said.

Rebekah Jones Receives Whistleblower Status

Misinformation On Miami Spanish-Language Radio

A new report found disinformation coming from Spanish-language radio shows in Miami.

It focuses on programs airing on two local AM stations, Radio Mambi and Actualidad Radio — and the conversations they aired after the Capitol insurrection in January.

“Miami-Dade County is majority Latino. Spanish-language radio is predominant here, actually, one of the stations, for example, is the most listened to AM station in Miami. So the reach of Spanish language radio here is much, much further than you would see in other markets around the United States," said WLRN Americas editor Tim Padgett. "And therefore, its disinformation that it broadcasts goes much deeper and has a more profound effect."

Even more concerning, some of the baseless claims were endorsed by high ranking politicians, like Republican U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Maria Elvira Salazar.

“It's on us to not only call out the kinds of lies, racism and some of the really egregious things that are happening on Spanish-language radio. But also to build the infrastructure that we need to present other points of view. We're starting a promotoras de la verdada Truth Warriors program — at Florida Rising where we can share what we think is necessary to expand democracy and to advance racial equity in our country, you know, in Spanish,” said Andrea Mercado, the co-executive director of Florida Rising — one of the organizations who helped create the report.

Misinformation On Miami Spanish Radio
Law enforcement, including Capitol Police officers, try to hold back rioters at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Bitcoin Enthusiasts Descend On Miami

Miami hosted the largest Bitcoin conference in history this past weekend, with tens of thousands of visitors coming to the city’s Wynwood neighborhood. Conference speakers included Libertarian former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and former professional skateboarder Tony Hawk. Sundial senior producer Chris Remington attended the event and shared insights about the future of Miami as a cryptocurrency hub.

Bitcoin Frenzy
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey (left) interrupted by former Palm Beach County Congressional Candidate Laura Loomer, protesting the company's censorship policies.

Leslie Ovalle Atkinson is the former lead producer behind Sundial. As a multimedia producer, she also worked on visual and digital storytelling.
Chris knew he wanted to work in public radio beginning in middle school, as WHYY played in his car rides to and from school in New Jersey. He’s freelanced for All Things Considered and was a desk associate for CBS Radio News in New York City. Most recently, he was producing for Capital Public Radio’s Insight booking guests, conducting research and leading special projects at Sacramento’s NPR affiliate.