Several Florida Democrats are challenging a “60 Minutes” report that attempted to paint the state’s vaccination partnership with Publix as nefarious.
The CBS program on Sunday explored the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Florida, which has experienced a similar COVID-19 death rate to California and other states despite having much looser restrictions.
In one heated exchange, a reporter pressed Gov. Ron DeSantis on the use of Publix stores to administer vaccines, claiming that the fact Publix contributed $100,000 to his political action committee before the chain was chosen could be seen as evidence of a “pay-for-play” scheme.
DeSantis called the allegation “a fake narrative,” offering a lengthy explanation of what had unfolded. It included state officials reaching out to pharmacies besides CVS and Walgreens because those two companies were tasked with delivering vaccines to long-term care facilities. Publix was the first to say they were ready for the second set of distribution and administration.
DeSantis also said he visited four different Publix stores during a trial run and found feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and that he solicited advice from Palm Beach officials.
“Here’s some of the options: we can do more drive-through sites, we can give more to hospitals, we can do the Publix, we can do this. They calculated that 90 percent of their seniors live within a mile and a half of a Publix. And they said, ‘We think that would be the easiest thing for our residents,'” he said.
“60 Minutes” omitted 356 words from DeSantis’ 423-word answer.
The reporter then repeated her “pay for play” accusation.
“I just disabused you of the narrative. And you don’t care about the facts,” DeSantis said."
Jared Moskowitz, a former Democrat state senator who now runs the state Division of Emergency Management, said in a tweet late Sunday that Publix was recommended by his agency “as the other pharmacies were not ready to start.”
“No one from the Governors office suggested Publix. It’s just absolute malarkey,” he added.
In a statement on Monday, Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner, a Democrat, said the “60 Minutes” reporting was “intentionally false.”
“I know this because I offered to provide my insight into Palm Beach County’s vaccination efforts and 60 minutes declined,” he said, adding that he and other officials asked the governor to expand the state’s partnership with Publix, as opposed to the other way around.
“We asked and he delivered,” Kerner wrote. “They had that information, and they left it out because it kneecaps their narrative.”
CBS and “60 Minutes” did not respond to requests for comment. The program has aired false information before; in 2004, it broadcast documents that were allegedly penned by President George W. Bush’s former commanding officer. However, the documents were later found to be forged. An internal probe found staffers failed to do due diligence in vetting the documents, and a number of workers resigned. CBS also aired footage from Italy when reporting on COVID-19 hospitalizations in New York City last year.
Publix, in a statement to news outlets, called the suggestion of a link between campaign contributions and the vaccination efforts “irresponsible.”
“We are proud of our pharmacy associates for administering more than 1.5 million doses of vaccine to date and for joining other retailers in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia to do our part to help our communities emerge from the pandemic,” it added.
Florida had administered over 10.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses as of April 5, one of the highest totals in the nation. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
Some other officials did say the reporting on Sunday regarding Florida was concerning.
Nikki Fried, Florida’s Democrat commissioner of agriculture, said the program “is exposing the nation” to the governor’s “failings & corruption.”
“I made the initial call when pay for play happened in my district. I and so many others fought for equitable distribution of the vaccine in Black + Brown communities,” added state Rep. Michele Rayner-Goolsby, a Democrat.
Still others said another focus of the program, DeSantis’s prioritization on vaccinating seniors, turned out to be the right move, but that the Republican was being attacked because of signs he could run for president in 2024.
“Seniors were prioritized for vaccine, DeSantis was criticized for breaking from CDC and he turned out to be right,” Florida GOP Vice Chairman Christian Ziegler said in a tweet. “Now, in the name of 2024, the media is generating a new narrative to attack.”
60 Minutes Releases Exclusive Secret Photos Of Ron DeSantis Clubbing Baby Seals With Hitler
TALLAHASSEE, FL—In response to being caught deceptively editing a statement by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who later called them "lairs" for pushing a "fake narrative," CBS hit back today with another bombshell.
Several photos, described by CBS as "totally real and authentic," appear to show DeSantis clubbing baby seals with his best friend Adolf Hitler.
"We are shocked and saddened by this terrible reveal of Desantis's past," said correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi. "It would appear from these completely undoctored photographs, that Ron DeSantis is both a fan of clubbing baby seals and a Nazi. Please know that I am just as saddened by this news as I'm sure the rest of the country is."
In a statement, Governor DeSantis replied: "This is not true! I love baby seals! And I've never met Hitler!"
60 Minutes later reported the Governor's statement as: "This is... true! I love [clubbing] baby seals! And I've... met Hitler!"
The governor later thanked CBS for helping to launch his presidential campaign.
metmike: Go get em Babylon Bee, the King of funny satire!
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is bolstering his position as a potential leading 2024 Republican presidential contender amid a high-profile battle with CBS’s “60 Minutes.”
The newsmagazine received widespread backlash from Republicans and some Democrats after it aired a piece Sunday alleging that DeSantis funneled COVID-19 vaccines to affluent Florida communities and privatized the vaccine rollout to benefit donors.
DeSantis vehemently denied any wrongdoing in the vaccine rollout, calling the claim “a fake narrative,” but his insiders are relishing the fight with “60 Minutes,” which has long been a target of the right. They say the fallout over the report will likely help bolster the governor’s profile as he is increasingly seen as an heir apparent to former President Trump.
“He’s making immense political capital because he was a target of a journalistic hit job,” said former Trump administration official Alexei Woltornist. “Not only did he catch them, he exposed them.”
DeSantis doubled down on his criticism of the piece at a news conference Tuesday, calling the segment “horse manure.”
“I know corporate media thinks that they can just run over people; you ain’t running over this governor. I’m punching back,” DeSantis said.
The governor also made the rounds on conservative-leaning television shows, including “Tucker Carlson Tonight” and “Fox & Friends,” to blast the report. That provides an opportunity for DeSantis to reach out to conservatives and build his brand.
“It certainly has given him yet another reason to appear before a national audience that leans conservative,” said Florida-based Republican consultant Shawn Frost.
DeSantis has been a controversial figure throughout his term as governor as his fortunes have waxed and waned with the pandemic.
Polling shows that the governor’s approval rating has risen in recent weeks. A survey from Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy released last month found the governor with a 53 percent approval rating, up from his 45 percent approval rating in July.
DeSantis has presented a fiery and confrontational persona with his critics and certain members of the news media as he’s battled critics of his stewardship of the state during the pandemic. The style appears to mirror the no-holds-barred approach Trump took with the news media throughout his presidency.
“If there is anything that Trump taught us it’s that culture wars and fighting with media are winning fights for Republicans,” Woltornist said.
One of the most notable examples of this took place in February when the governor threatened to divert vaccines from Manatee County after he was asked about criticism over the vaccine distribution process in parts of the state.
“I mean, if Manatee County doesn’t like us doing this, then we are totally fine with putting this in counties that want it,” DeSantis said at a news conference.
DeSantis’s response to the pandemic and his approach to the news media has only endeared him to Trump’s base, who could look to him as the GOP standard-bearer in 2024 — if Trump does not run.
“He’s a serious contender,” said Nelson Diaz, the former chairman of the Miami-Dade Republican Party. “His approach has been proven correct. We did not have to destroy people’s lives and shut down the economy to slow the spread, and I think that’s terrifying to Democrats, the fact that he was right.”
The “60 Minutes” report homed in on the distribution process in Palm Beach County, painting a picture of a “free for all” in the area, with the wealthier areas, like the town of Palm Beach, getting more access to the vaccine than less affluent areas, like West Palm Beach.
Arguably the biggest takeaway from the story was the allegation that DeSantis gave a contract to distribute coronavirus vaccines to the popular Florida-based grocery store chain Publix after the corporation made a $100,000 donation to his political action committee.
Critics of the media were quick to point out Publix’s strong 817-store presence in the Sunshine State, saying the move would have been a no-brainer for any administration looking to distribute the vaccine.
“I think them attacking Publix is the biggest mistake they can make in Florida,” Frost said. “It’s the fourth estate here, honestly.”
Critics of the partnership with Publix say the chain’s stores tend to be located in or in closer proximity to middle- and upper-class communities, making it difficult for members of lower income communities to receive their shot at a Publix location.
Some Democrats came to DeSantis’s defense after the report. Florida Division of Emergency Management head Jared Moskowitz, a Democrat, tweeted Sunday that the governor’s office did not suggest Publix as a vaccine distribution site.
“Publix was recommended by [Florida Division of Emergency Management] and [Florida Department of Health] as the other pharmacies were not ready to start. Period! Full Stop! No one from the Governors office suggested Publix. It’s just absolute malarkey,” Moskowitz said in a tweet.
Meanwhile, the Democratic mayor of Palm Beach County, Dave Kerner, said in a statement that it was the county that requested the state’s partnership with Publix be expanded.
“We also discussed our own local plans to expand mass vaccinations centers throughout the county, which the governor has been incredibly supportive. We asked and he delivered. They had that information, and they left it out because it kneecaps their narrative,” Kerner said.
DeSantis has found himself in a defensive position during various points of the pandemic.
The governor caught backlash at the start of the public health crisis last year for waiting weeks to issue a stay-at-home order despite facing pressure from state and federal officials. He also took heat for moving to reopen Florida despite a surge in coronavirus cases.
CBS's "60 Minutes" is pushing back on criticism of its investigation of Florida's vaccine roll-out.
A spokesperson for “60 Minutes” said Tuesday that it’s not true that the show’s journalists were unwilling to listen to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and State Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz for its report examining how vaccines were distributed in the state and whether campaign contributions played a part in decisions.
"We requested an interview with Gov. Ron DeSantis, he declined,” the spokesperson said in a statement emailed to The Hill. “We spoke to State Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz twice, but he declined to be interviewed on camera for our story until well after our deadline. The idea we ignored their perspective is untrue.”
On Sunday, the show aired an extensive report by CBS reporter Sharyn Alfonsi critiquing Florida's vaccine rollout, alleging the effort overlooked low income areas and that DeSantis awarded chain Publix the right to distribute the vaccines because Publix donated money to his political action committee.
Afterwards, DeSantis called CBS "smear merchants” and said the story was a “horse manure” narrative about the coronavirus vaccine rollout in his state.
Other critics, including Dave Kerner, the Democratic mayor of Palm Beach County, Fla., specifically focused on the section of the piece when Alfonsi confronted DeSantis at an event to ask about the role Publix’s campaign donations played in vaccine distribution. Kerner and others claim CBS deliberately edited out DeSantis’s detailed explanation about how the distribution decisions were made.
A "60 Minutes" spokesperson said in an earlier defense of the piece that editing video for clarity is something the show always does and that the two minute response directly addressed Alfonsi’s specific question.
“When Florida state data revealed people of color were vaccinated at a much lower rate than their wealthier neighbors, '60 Minutes' reported the facts surrounding the vaccine’s rollout, which is controlled by the governor,” the spokesperson wrote. “We requested and conducted interviews with dozens of sources and authorities involved.”
“For over 50 years, the facts reported by ‘60 Minutes’ have often stirred debate and prompted strong reactions,” the spokesperson added. “Our story Sunday night speaks for itself."
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) tore into journalists working for CBS News, calling them "smear merchants" and accusing them of peddling a "horse manure" narrative about the coronavirus vaccine rollout in his state.
"These are smear merchants. That's why nobody trusts corporate media. They are a disaster in what they are doing," DeSantis said during a press conference in Panama City on Tuesday morning. "They knew what they were doing was a lie."
On Sunday evening, CBS reporter Sharyn Alfonsi presented a far-ranging report for "60 Minutes" that criticized DeSantis's vaccine rollout, accusing him of funneling vaccines to rich communities while using a privatized system that benefited political donors.
The segment alleged that DeSantis gave a contract to distribute coronavirus vaccines to the grocery store chain Publix after the company made a sizable donation to his political action committee.
"It's wrong. It's a fake narrative," DeSantis told Alfonsi. "I just disabused you of the narrative, and you don't care about the facts because obviously I just laid it out for you in a way that is irrefutable. So clearly it's not."
Defenders of the governor and some media critics accused CBS News of selectively editing DeSantis's comments to exclude a more thorough explanation of how the state government decided to award the contract to the grocery chain.
In a statement on Tuesday afternoon, CBS News shot down DeSantis's criticism and said its reporting "speaks for itself."
"When Florida state data revealed people of color were vaccinated at a much lower rate than their wealthier neighbors, 60 Minutes reported the facts surrounding the vaccine’s rollout, which is controlled by the governor," the network said in a statement. "We requested and conducted interviews with dozens of sources and authorities involved. We requested an interview with Gov. Ron DeSantis, he declined; We spoke to State Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz twice, but he declined to be interviewed on camera for our story until well after our deadline."
CBS said the governor's claim that its journalists ignored his administration's perspective is "untrue."
"Counter to his statement yesterday, we also spoke on the record with Palm Beach County Mayor David Kerner. For over 50 years, the facts reported by 60 Minutes have often stirred debate and prompted strong reactions," the company said.
DeSantis had claimed 60 Minutes did not seek comment from the key players involved in his vaccination rollout program.
With Trump gone, maybe they are making a pre emptive strike at the next potential republican president.
Thats exactly what this is. And by 2023-24, whomever is the most likely candidate will be branded a corrupt, Nazi racist. And a significant number of the electorate will be right on board. The question is, can they get the majority on board?
But I get it, and I don't blame the left. They can't debate purely on issues, they really suck at that, so they have to rely on character assasination, with or without facts, or they don't stand a chance.