On Sunday, CBS’s “60 Minutes” aired a biased narrative that used deceptively edited clips to claim there was something wrong with Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) using the state’s largest grocery store chain to distribute COVID vaccines.
DeSantis and others, including a Democrat, have explained why Publix was chosen for vaccine distribution, yet left-leaning outlet Axios framed the story as DeSantis “clash[ing]” with the network, burying the evidence in DeSantis’ favor at the bottom of the article.
As The Daily Wire’s Ryan Saavedra reported, CBS deceptively edited reporter Sharyn Alfonsi’s interaction with DeSantis where she repeatedly claimed the donations from Publix to the governor’s political action committee prior to the vaccine plan amounted to a “pay-to-play” scheme. “60 Minutes” cut out most of DeSantis’ explanation about why Publix was chosen. The following is DeSantis’ answer to Alfonsi’s question, with the bolded words representing what “60 Minutes” cut:
Sharyn Alfonsi: How is that not pay-to-play?
Ron DeSantis: —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 the 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 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.
Further, Publix and former Florida state Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Democrat who is now director of Florida’s Division of Emergency Management and who saw the state’s coronavirus response, have both denied any nefarious intent.
Publix slammed the “60 Minutes” episode in a statement, The Daily Wire reported.
“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 grocery chain said in its statement. “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.”
Moskowitz took to Twitter to denounce the segment as well.
“@60Minutes I said this before and I’ll say it again. @Publix was recommended by [FL Division of Emergency Management] and [Florida Dept. Health] as the other pharmacies were not ready to start,” Moskowitz tweeted. “Period! Full Stop! No one from the Governor[‘]s office suggested Publix. It’s just absolute malarkey.”
There are 831 Publix locations in Florida, and anyone who has ever lived there or spent time there outside of the theme parks knows that outside of chain pharmacies, Publix would be the best location for vaccines. CBS focused on a low-income community in Palm Beach that is 25 miles from the nearest Publix, but most people in Florida live within a short distance of one of the grocery stores. Further, as DeSantis noted, once CVS and Walgreens finished providing the vaccine to long-term care facilities, they would offer it to the general population.
As is often the case, however, evidence that favors Republicans and makes the media look bad is characterized as Republicans “seizing” or “clashing” or “pouncing.”
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