Covid Whistle-blower Rebekah Jones is challenging Rep. Matt Gaetz

Image: Rebekah Jones (MSNBC)
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The scientist who said she was fired by Gov. Ron DeSantis for refusing to censor Florida's Covid-19 numbers said Tuesday she’s hoping to unseat another high-profile Republican politician in the state — Rep. Matt Gaetz.

Rebekah Jones said the congressman, currently under investigation by the Justice Department for allegedly paying an underage girl for sex, is vulnerable.

“I hope I do better than a sex trafficker,” Jones told NBC News. “It’s absurd that he’s still in office. Someone like that should not go unchallenged.”

Jones, who currently lives in Maryland, made the announcement on a new Instagram account she set up after her Twitter account was suspended. She said she ran afoul of Twitter for repeatedly reposting a Miami Herald article highly critical of DeSantis.

“I had hoped that someone in the Republican Party would step up and primary him, and I’ve yet to see that happen,” Jones said in the video. “And so, if it takes me going home to Florida to run against Matt Gaetz, then I will do it. If it means getting one child sex trafficker out of office, you’re damn right I’ll do it.”

Gaetz, whose district is in the Florida Panhandle, has denied paying a teenager for sex.

"Congressman Gaetz faces no criminal charges," his spokesman, Harlan Hill, said in an email to NBC News. "Ms. Jones cannot say the same." 

Video: Bodycam video shows search of Rebekah Jones' home

Jones was charged in December with hacking into the state's computer system, a charge she denies.

Responsible for helping to create and updating Florida’s Covid-19 dashboard, Jones was fired from the Department of Health in May 2020 for, in her words, refusing to “manually change data to drum up support for the plan to reopen.”

That was a reference to DeSantis’ plan to reopen Florida even though the pandemic was raging through the state. Most of the nearly 38,000 Covid-19 deaths and 2.3 million confirmed cases in the state were reported after May 2020, according to NBC News figures and other Covid-19 databases.

Shortly after she was ousted, Jones filed a confidential whistle-blower complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations saying she was being punished for speaking out.

DeSantis and other officials denied Jones’ allegations. But in December, Florida Department of Law Enforcement officers, acting on a warrant, raided Jones’ home in Tallahassee, arrested her and confiscated her personal phone and a laptop computer.