The CBS news program 60 Minutes is being accused of false reporting on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his vaccine rollout. The Republican has found some unlikely allies in state Democrat officials who also say a Sunday segment that attempted to paint a pay-to-play scenario between DeSantis and the Florida retail grocer Publix is totally fabricated.
The program on April 4 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 the fact that 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.
Watch how CBS selectively edited the encounter:
DeSantis called the allegation “a fake narrative,” offering a lengthy explanation of what had unfolded. It included state officials reaching out to the pharmacies of CVS and Walgreens because those companies were tasked with delivering vaccines to long-term care facilities. Numerous companies were contacted, including Walmart but it was Publix that was the first to agree to 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 Democratic state senator who now runs the state Division of Emergency Management, said in a tweet on April 4 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 wrote.
In a statement on April 5, Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner, also 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, not 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.”
60 Minutes is also being accused of editing DeSantis’ comments and not using comments of state Democratic officials who backed up his claims.
CBS News and “60 Minutes” are not responding to numerous media requests for comments on the false story.
It is not the first time CBS has fabricated stories. Over the last two decades, dozens of examples of false and misleading reporting have been exposed. In 2002, the company fired four producers when it was revealed they faked a story concerning the National Guard service of former President George Bush. In May of 2020, while covering the coronavirus effect on hospitals, CBS was caught having hospital workers pose as patients to make it appear the medical center was full of Covid patients.