Targeting a rising Republican star who could be on the national ticket in 2024, “60 Minutes” aired heavily edited clips of a news conference with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, making it look like he was dodging an accusation of “pay for play.”
The CBS News program showed correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi accusing DeSantis of giving the grocery chain Publix exclusive rights to distribute the coronavirus vaccine in Palm Beach County as a reward for a campaign donation of $100,000.
At the news conference near Orlando, DeSantis fired back, “First, of all what you’re saying is wrong.”
Alfonsi replied, “How is that not pay for play?”
DeSantis, calling her claim a “fake narrative,” then gave a lengthy explanation.
But “60 Minutes” didn’t show the governor’s full answer, editing the video to make it look like he had no defense.
Alfonsi then is shown telling DeSantis the “criticism here is that is pay for play, governor!”
“And it’s wrong, it’s wrong,” DeSantis said. “It’s a fake narrative. I just disabused you of the narrative. And you don’t care about the facts. Because, obviously, I laid it out for you in a way that is irrefutable.”
But “60 Minutes” viewers never heard DeSantis lay out “the facts.”
And the Democratic Mayor of Palm Beach County, Dave Kerner, issued a statement Monday saying the “60 Minutes” reporting “was not just based on bad information — it was intentionally false.”
Here is DeSantis’ full reply to Alfonsi, with the part “60 Minutes” deleted in bold text:
That, that’s a fake narrative. So, first of all, when we did, the first pharmacies that had it were CVS and Walgreens. And they had a long-term care mission. So they were going to the long-term care facilities.
They got vaccine in the middle of December; they started going to the long-term care facilities the third week of December to do LTCs. So that was their mission. That was very important. And we trusted them to do that.
As we got into January, we wanted to expand the distribution points. So yes, you had the counties, you had some drive-through sites, you had hospitals that were doing a lot. But we wanted to get it into communities more. So we reached out to other retail pharmacies — Publix, Walmart — obviously CVS and Walgreens had to finish that mission. And we said, we’re going to use you as soon as you’re done with that.
For the Publix, they were the first one to raise their hand, say they were ready to go. And you know what, we did it on a trial basis. I had three counties. I actually showed up that weekend and talked to seniors across four different Publix. How was the experience? Is this good? Should you think this is a way to go? And it was 100% positive.
So we expanded it, and then folks liked it. And I can tell you, if you look at a place like Palm Beach County, they were kind of struggling at first in terms of the senior numbers. I went, I met with the county mayor. I met with the administrator. I met with all the folks in Palm Beach County, and I said, “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% 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.” So, we did that, and what ended up happening was, you had 65 Publix in Palm Beach. Palm Beach is one of the biggest counties, one of the most elderly counties, we’ve done almost 75% of the seniors in Palm Beach, and the reason is because you have the strong retail footprint. So our way has been multifaceted. It has worked. And we’re also now very much expanding CVS and Walgreens, now that they’ve completed the long term care mission.
“60 Minutes” compared the state’s vaccine rollout to “The Hunger Games” movie, contending wealthy communities in Florida were granted priority access to the vaccine.
But Kerner, the Democratic mayor, said he knows the reporting was “intentionally false” because he offered to “provide my insight into Palm Beach County’s vaccination effort and ’60 Minutes’ declined.”
“They know that the governor came to Palm Beach County and met with me and the county administrator and we asked to expand the state’s partnership with Publix to Palm Beach County,” he said (emphasis in original).
“We also discussed our own local plans to expand mass vaccination centers throughout the county, which the governor has been incredibly supportive,” Kerner continued.
“We asked and he delivered,” the mayor said of DeSantis.
He said CBS News “had that information, and they left it out because it kneecaps their narrative.”
Jared Moskowitz, director of Florida’s division of emergency management, called the “60 Minutes” claim “absolute malarkey.”
“I said this before and I’ll say it again. @Publix was recommended by @FLSERT and @HealthyFla as the other pharmacies were not ready to start. Period! Full Stop! No one from the Governors office suggested Publix,” he wrote on Twitter Sunday. “It’s just absolute malarkey.”
A spokesman for Publix Super Markets provided a statement to “60 Minutes” calling the charge of pay for play “absolutely false and offensive.”
“The irresponsible suggestion that there was a connection between campaign contributions made to Governor DeSantis and our willingness to join other pharmacies in support of the state’s vaccine distribution efforts is absolutely false and offensive,” the statement said. “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.”
WATCH: CBS and @60Minutes excluded context from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in which he explains the steps his government took to make the decision to partner with Publix on vaccine distribution.
The 60 Minutes version is first, followed by the full answer from DeSantis. pic.twitter.com/2KRQKPLOe7
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) April 5, 2021
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But as the scandal unfolded, CBS News stood by the documents, telling WND at the time they had been “thoroughly investigated by independent experts, and we are convinced of their authenticity.”
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