Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has slammed 60 Minutes for ‘deceptively editing’ his exchange with a correspondent in a piece accusing him of cutting a ‘pay-for-play’ deal with grocery chain Publix for COVID-19 vaccine distribution, as even Democratic officials in the state say the program ignored key evidence contradicting the allegation.
Sunday’s episode of the once-venerable CBS News program revealed that weeks before Publix landed the lucrative contract, the chain donated $100,000 to DeSantis’ PAC, Friends of Ron DeSantis.
60 Minutes implied in the piece that Publix was the only source of vaccines in Palm Beach County, which is false, and blamed the Publix deal for exacerbating racial and economic disparities in vaccine distribution.
The report also featured a testy exchange between correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi and the Republican governor, showing him slamming the allegations as a ‘false narrative’ – but cut out several minutes of DeSantis explaining the Publix contract, leading him and others to accuse the show of deceptive editing.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has slammed 60 Minutes for ‘deceptively editing’ his exchange with a correspondent in a piece accusing him of cutting a ‘pay-for-play’ deal
Sunday’s episode of 60 Minutes featured a testy exchange between correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi (left) and the Republican governor, showing him slamming the allegations as a ‘false narrative’ — but cut out several minutes of DeSantis explaining the Publix contract
A 60 Minutes spokesman told DailyMail.com in a statement: ‘As we always do for clarity, 60 Minutes used the portion of the Governor’s over two-minute response that directly addressed the question from the correspondent.’
The 60 Minutes team spent three months in Palm Beach County for the lengthy report, examining allegations of disparity in vaccine distribution there and pointing the finger at the Publix deal, which correspondent Alfonsi called ‘pay-for-play’.
After the report aired, key Democrats in Florida responded to it harshly, saying they had offered 60 Minutes evidence that political donations played no role in the Publix contract, which the program ignored.
‘I said this before and I’ll say it again. @Publix was recommended by [Florida Division of Emergency Management] and [Department of Health] as the other pharmacies were not ready to start,’ said Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz in a tweet.
‘Period! Full Stop! No one from the Governors office suggested Publix. It’s just absolute malarkey,’ added Moskowitz, who previously served as a Democratic legislator in Florida’s state House.
Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner, also a Democrat, had even harsher words, calling the 60 Minutes report ‘intentionally false’ and saying the program ‘should be ashamed.’
Florida Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz (left) and Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner (right), both Democrats, slammed the 60 Minutes report as false
‘The reporting was not just based on bad information — it was intentionally false,’ Kerner said in a statement. ‘I know this because I offered to provide my insight into Palm Beach County’s vaccination efforts 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.
‘They had that information, and they left it out because it kneecaps their narrative,’ Kerner added. ’60 Minutes should be ashamed.’
A CBS News spokesman declined to respond to the criticism levied by Moskowitz and Kerner when reached by DailyMail.com on Monday night.
DeSantis also spoke out in an interview on Monday, saying 60 Minutes omitted key facts about Florida’s vaccine rollout in their reporting.
‘They don’t believe in facts. It was a political narrative, it was done with malicious intent and a reckless disregard for the truth,’ DeSantis told Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
‘They would not talk to the people who were most relevant to this, because they know those key Democrats, Jared Moskowitz and Mayor Dave Kerner would blow up their narrative,’ he continued. ‘So they just put their head in the sand and pretended that those facts didn’t exist.’
Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner issued a withering statement calling the 60 Minutes report ‘intentionally false’ and saying the program ‘should be ashamed’
DeSantis touted his approach to vaccine rollout, which rejected CDC guidance to focus early rollout on senior citizens, saying the state had seen ‘hospitalizations among seniors plummet’ as a result.
‘Obviously they were in Florida for three months, 60 Minutes, trying to dredge up any dirt they could use to smear me, and the best they could come up with is a baseless conspiracy theory that was easily debunked,’ DeSantis said.
‘Not just by me – which they edited out – but by two prominent Democrats in the state of Florida,’ he said.
Many critics likewise accused 60 Minutes of deceptively editing the correspondent’s exchange with DeSantis, with conservative writer A.G. Hamilton pointing out that the program ‘cut out several minutes’ of the governor’s comments explaining what led to the deal with Publix.
In the segment that aired on Sunday, the correspondent Alfonsi was seen in a brief but heated exchange with DeSantis.
‘Publix, as you know, donated $100,000 to your campaign,’ Alfonsi said to DeSantis in a clip from a March 22 press conference. ‘And then you rewarded them with the exclusive rights to distribute the vaccination in Palm Beach…’
‘First, of all what you’re saying is wrong,’ DeSantis shot back.
‘How is that not pay for play?’ Alfonsi then asked.
‘That’s a fake narrative,’ DeSantis replied. ‘I met with the county mayor, I met with the administrator, I met with all the folks at Palm Beach County and I said, ‘Here’s some of the options: We can do more drive-thru sites, we can give more to hospitals, we can do the Publix.’ And they said, ‘We think that would be the easiest thing for our residents.’
‘The criticism here is that is pay for play, governor,’ Alfonsi told DeSantis.
‘And it’s wrong, it’s wrong,’ the governor fired back. ‘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.’
Critics accused 60 Minutes of deceptively editing the correspondent’s exchange with DeSantis, who described at length the origins of the Publix contract
The full exchange, not seen on 60 Minutes, included the following remarks from DeSantis.
‘First of all, the first pharmacies that had [the vaccine] were CVS and Walgreens and they had a long-term care mission, so they were going to the long-term care facilities,’ DeSantis said during the portion omitted by 60 Minutes.
‘They got the vaccine in the middle of December, they started going to the long-term care facilities the third week in December to do LTCs,’ DeSantis told Alfonsi.
‘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-thru sites, you had hospitals that were doing a lot, but we wanted to get it into communities more,’ he went on.
‘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,’ DeSantis continued.
DeSantis insisted that Publix was the ‘first one to raise their hand’ to say they were ready to distribute the vaccine.
They rolled out the vaccine on a ‘trial basis’ in three counties, which was met with ‘100 percent positive’ feedback from seniors, he said.
Addressing concerns in Palm Beach County, DeSantis said that while the county had ‘struggled’ initially with distribution, it had now vaccinated nearly three-quarters of all seniors, with distribution set to expand further.
In a statement to 60 Minutes after the report ran, a Publix spokesperson blasted the allegation that donations affected the vaccine contract.
‘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 company 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.’