Florida and the COVID-19 Grift


Saturday, June 5, 2021

Throughout history, chaos and disorder have presented an opportunity for ambitious individuals to pursue greater political power. But, as Littlefinger, whose character was driven by ambition, manipulation, and greed, remarked in HBO’s Game of Thrones, “Chaos is a ladder. Many who try to climb it fail and never get to try again.”

When Florida Governor Ron DeSantis became one of the first governors to announce the re-opening of their state in April 2020, many on the left thought chaos would ensue. Florida, they predicted, would become a paradise for COVID-19 rather than for tourists desperate to see Mickey Mouse. 

But other Florida leftists, namely Daniel Uhlfelder, an attorney, and Rebekah Jones, a geographer, saw an opportunity for self-promotion. 

Uhlfelder became famous after dressing up as the grim reaper and looming ominously around Florida beaches last May. The fact that research was already beginning to show that COVID-19 very rarely transmits outdoors didn’t matter; it was obvious that Ron DeSantis was killing people by daring to open beaches. 

Uhlfelder’s goal was to attract attention to the “crisis,” and to an extent, he succeeded. However, as research continued to demonstrate that outdoor transmission of COVID-19 was low, much of the attention turned to Uhlfelder’s actions rather than policy. After all, some guy dressing up as the grim reaper during a pandemic is a sight to behold. Uhlfelder loved the attention and adulation, and his predisposition towards performative activism turned into an obsession.

“[People] are being deceived into ignoring the stark reality that by opening the beaches to tens of thousands of tourists – many untested and from infected communities – you are inviting death and disease to walk amongst you,” Uhlfelder proclaimed in an op-ed, in which he attempted to channel the character of death. 

His attention then turned to lawsuits and politics. Uhlfelder formed a PAC intended to remove DeSantis. Then Uhlfelder sued the Governor over his refusal to close Florida beaches. The courts would hear his plea for attention and respond accordingly!

But this is when Uhlfelder failed to climb up the ladder. DeSantis had full discretion to reopen the state under Florida law and on Feb. 5, Florida’s First District Court ruled that “[Uhlfelder] presented no good-faith argument rooted in existing law and no good-faith argument for the modification, extension, or reversal of existing law.” 

Moreover, the Court took it a step further and forwarded the case to the Florida Bar. As the legal proceedings continue, Uhlfelder may face a supernatural presence he did not anticipate: the consequences of his actions. 

Rebekah Jones tried to climb the ladder too. She was the Florida Department of Health’s data manager early in the pandemic but was fired on May 18, 2020.

After this event, she began to spin her conspiratorial web. She alleged that a conspiracy was occurring in Florida, one of historical proportions. Jones claimed that she had been ordered to manipulate Florida’s COVID-19 data in an effort to make the state’s data look better than it was.

This would have been quite the story if it were true. The problem is that Jones appears to have been lying. As Charles Cooke wrote in National Review, “it’s nonsense from start to finish. Jones isn’t a martyr; she’s a myth-peddler. She isn’t a scientist; she’s a fabulist. She’s not a whistleblower; she’s a good old-fashioned confidence trickster. And, like any confidence trickster, she understands her marks better than they understand themselves.”And that doesn’t even mention Jones’s complicated relationship with the law. 

An angry Left, hungry for any information that could take DeSantis down a peg, eagerly took Jones’ lies to heart. Despite the warnings of Florida Democrats involved in the state’s response to COVID-19, many still believe Jones. And Jones, hungry for attention and adulation, eagerly gave the people more of what they wanted. But now, the house of cards appears to be falling down. Jones, through the work of honest journalists and inquisitive Twitter users, has been exposed. 

So, what do we learn from Uhlfelder’s and Jones’s falls from grace? We can gather that maybe there is a little bit of karma in this world. When people do performative acts in the right way at the right time for the right reasons, good things often happen in response. Maybe that Aristotle guy had a point after all. 

But when someone shamelessly uses a crisis for their own benefit, people are going to notice, even if they agree with the political objectives of the person in question. Simply put, it’s easier to be a good person than it is to be a grifter.

Garion Frankel studies education policy and management at Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government and Public Service. He serves as the Policy Director for the Texas Federation of College Republicans, as well as a Contributor for The Western Journal and Young Voices.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.

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About Garion Frankel

Garion Frankel studies education policy and management at Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government and Public Service. He serves as the Policy Director for the Texas Federation of College Republicans, as well as a Contributor for The Western Journal and Young Voices.

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