Rebekah Jones, the failed Democratic congressional candidate who claimed Florida Republican governor Ron DeSantis kidnapped her son, admitted on Tuesday that she was behind a fake local news outlet that published flattering articles about her and stole stories from a local USA Today affiliate.
Just last week, Jones told the Washington Free Beacon that the bogus news website, My Northwest Florida, wasn’t hers. She acknowledged on Tuesday that she did purchase the website domain, but says she no longer has "anything to do with" the site, in a statement to the Washington Free Beacon. The website launched in November and stopped publishing in January.
The reversal comes after a Florida USA Today affiliate, the Pensacola News Journal, sent Jones a cease-and-desist letter asking her to remove some of its articles that were reprinted on My Northwest Florida without permission. Jones told the Free Beacon that she never received the letter and threatened to sue the Pensacola News Journal for unrelated grievances.
"[The Pensacola News Journal] has a history of fabricating stories about me," said Jones. "If this is an attempt to scare me out of suing them, they've just fucked around and are about to find out."
The Free Beacon reported last week that Jones—a former Florida health department data worker who gained national fame in 2020 after claiming DeSantis underreported COVID death numbers—founded "My Northwest Florida" on Nov. 15, 2022, according to corporate records.
The progressive firebrand is back in the news this month after claiming her 13-year-old son, who was arrested for allegedly threatening to shoot up his school, was "kidnapped on the [Florida] governor’s orders." There is no indication DeSantis had anything to do with the arrest.
Jones’s website published just a handful of articles since it launched last year, many of which were copied from legitimate local news outlets. But it also published one original story—framed as an investigative news piece—which accused the Florida State Attorney’s office of illegally forging Jones’s signature on a plea agreement while prosecuting her in a hacking case last year. Jones repeatedly promoted the article on social media but did not disclose that she was behind the website.
When asked last week if My Northwest Florida was her website, Jones told the Free Beacon by phone "No, my website is MissInformational.com"—a reference to another group she started that combats "disinformation."
But in a message to the Free Beacon on Tuesday, Jones acknowledged that she "bought the domain [for My Northwest Florida] but that's it."
She said she originally "envisioned it as a community resource page, which is why 90 percent of its content is community events, but I didn't stay on because I was working on other projects."
Jones said the website is currently run by "Rachel" and "Tiffany" but declined to give their last names, telling the Free Beacon that it "can't be hard to figure out … do that journalism thing you're so supposed to do [sic]."
"Neither of them [Rachel or Tiffany] are really working on it, either, as they both started working on other projects in February so it's pretty much just sitting there," she added.
Jones also claimed she "never received a cease and desist" from the Pensacola News Journal asking her to remove its articles that were republished on her website without permission. The newspaper told the Free Beacon that Jones was "was notified Feb. 13, 2023."
"From what we were able to determine, that site was created by failed congressional candidate Rebekah Jones," said Pensacola News Journal executive editor Lisa Nellessen Savage. "Jones was sent a cease-and-desist letter by our company for taking various PNJ stories and reposting them on her site without permission."
The Pensacola News Journal isn’t the first outlet to accuse My Northwest Florida of poaching its work. Romi White, the publisher of South Santa Rosa News, told the Free Beacon last week she was shocked to see two of her articles reposted on the website without permission.
"That’s my hard work that I’ve done, and she’s using it on her website apparently," said White. "I’m beside myself right now. I’m just furious."
As of Wednesday, the articles from both outlets were still available on My Northwest Florida.