Congress member Charlie Crist criticizes raid on home of former Florida COVID-19 data scientist

Congress member and former Florida governor Charlie Crist

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Last week, the home of former state COVID-19 data manager Rebekah Jones was raided by the Florida Department of Law enforcement. The security video she released shows several officers with their guns drawn.

Congress member Charlie Crist released an email statement critical of the raid of Rebekah Jones’ house.

The former Florida Governor wrote, “The guns drawn FDLE raid on the home of Rebekah Jones was shocking, over-the-top, and demands a full explanation.”

Crist added, “it looks like an act of retaliation or an attempt to silence Ms. Jones for her critiques of the state’s COVID-19 response.”

Here’s WMNF’s interview with Crist:

“Well, that it was a guns-drawn raid into her home with her children there. And I’m sure many of your listeners, viewers, saw the video. It’s been on MSNBC and CNN the last 24 hours, and it’s very disturbing to me. And, you know, somebody is suspected of doing something wrong, and a warrant has been issued. Which according to FDLE, a warrant was issued in this case. But this was not some kind of, you know, heinous crime. This was talking about maybe sending a message that shouldn’t have been sent which she denied she did. And so why they came in with guns drawn when apparently no violence was even suspected here, is bizarre to me, to say the least, Sean. I don’t understand it.”

SK: And even after she was in custody and she was completely complying, it seemed, they were still concerned that her children were upstairs and maybe her husband, but their guns were still out. Do you have any concern in the fact that were children involved in this raid?

“Absolutely, of course. I think she said she had a young daughter and son that were in the home, that her husband had gone upstairs with the children, I think holding one of them if I saw her interview correctly last evening. And to have guns pointed at a child, it’s just shocking. I mean, this is the kind of stuff of nightmares. And I just don’t understand why the State would have acted this way. And I think that not only she but the people of Florida deserve answers as to why such a raid, that you would expect in a different country, perhaps, would even occur in Florida. It just doesn’t make sense.”

SK: I spoke to a Republican, former member of the judicial nominating commission who resigned, in part, because of this action. And he suggested that possibly the government was trying to intimidate people who might be whistleblowers inside the government of the State. They might want to try to find out who’s been communicating with her when they access Rebecca Jones’s computers and phones, and as a way of trying to forbid or intimidate people from coming forward if they have any whistleblowing information.
That’s speculation, but does that resonate with you at all?

“It does resonate with me, and it does sound like that. It sounds like retaliation of a person who wanted to be transparent as it related to what was having happening with Covid and the Covid numbers, you know, the number of people that were getting it, a number of people that were dying from it, perhaps. And to skew those numbers so that Floridians wouldn’t be as fearful as maybe they otherwise perhaps could be if accurate numbers were being released. And that seems to be at the root of this whole issue. And why you come to somebody’s private home with about four or five agents with guns drawn because you want to check and see what her computer shows, seems beyond the pale. It is beyond the pale if that’s the rationale.

“I think it’s disturbing and somebody needs to be held accountable as to why something like this happens to one of our fellow Floridians who was working for the state government at the time. Then, is fired because they claimed she was insubordinate. And I don’t know exactly what they mean by that, but taking her side of the story, is because she was trying to be honest with the people of Florida, be transparent with the people of Florida, and be honest about what’s happening with this virus in our state. Well, that’s what you should be doing, being honest, being transparent, and straightforward with the people of Florida. That apparently was her job. And it sounds like she was retaliated against for having tried to do her job.”

SK: We’re speaking with Congress member Charlie Crist, a Democrat from St Petersburg. Representative Crist, you used to be the governor of Florida. And you were a Republican. If you were governor right now, how would you be handling the COVID-19 Pandemic for Floridians?

“Well, I think much differently than the current governor. I’m very disappointed, and listen, early on, I was very cautious about being a Monday Morning Quarterback because it was new to everybody. It was novel, right Sean? And so, we were in uncharted territory. But we’ve been living with this, or not living with this for some, sadly, and God forbid, but, you know, for nine months now or so, at this point in time, other states seems to have gotten the message, and understand what’s happening. I think President-elect Joe Biden understands what’s happening. You need to be transparent. You need to be honest. And their decisions need to be science-based.

“And, you know, we’re not getting that from our current leadership in Tallahassee. It’s very disturbing to me as a Floridian, and particularly as a former Governor. There are easy ways to deal with this. It’s called being honest, being transparent, leading with courage, and telling people that they ought to wear a mask, they ought to social distance, do things that are appropriate to minimize the effect of the virus on our fellow Floridians, and our fellow Americans for that matter.”

 

SK: Well, let me turn to the response in Congress about the Covid-19 relief bill. The House has already passed two bills since the first one that actually passed Senate got signed by the President. But now at the end of the session, Congress is trying to work in a last-minute Covid-19 relief bill that might be palatable to both the Senate and to the President. What do you think will be included in that Covid-19 bill?

“I’m optimistic. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia has been very forthright on this issue. The Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, has had the same posture. They look like they’re talking about a number that is similar, around 900 billion dollars. But that would just be another step. And then, President-elect Joe Biden has said that’s sounds like a good beginning. But it’s not the end. Once I get sworn in on January 20th, President-elect Biden, I mean, then we’ll have another opportunity to continue to fight this virus, do things that are responsible, make sure that people get payments that they need and deserve to keep their home, to make sure that they can pay their bills, things of that nature because a lot of people are suffering because of this virus, not only physically, but economic.”

SK: Congress member Charlie Crist if you don’t mind, if you have one more minute, I want to ask you about Cuba. The Trump Administration took away some of the freedoms for Americans to travel to Cuba that had been enacted during the Obama Administration. What do you think will happen with the Biden administration? Do you think that Biden will be open to restoring some of those freedoms for Americans, and to starting to repair the relations with Cuba?

“I think that’s a good possibility. President-elect Biden is an enlightened man. Obviously, he served as Vice President to Barack Obama. And when they had more free engagement with the island, being able to show people, you know, what freedom is like, what capitalism can do, in a positive way. And I had the opportunity to visit the island not long ago in the past year. And there was much capitalism that have broken out. Still concerns, obviously, with how people are being treated. But we’ve had this policy over 50 years of no engagement and has gotten us nowhere. And more importantly, it’s gotten the people of Cuba nowhere. And I don’t think the head in the sand approach is very smart. I think exposing people to what freedom is like, what reasonable capitalism is like, is a positive step. And so, I would anticipate that the Biden Administration would move in that direction again.”

 

Listen to the full show here.