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DeSantis strikes back at ‘60 Minutes’ report, calls it a smear campaign

Gov. Ron DeSantis held a press conference Wednesday in Tallahassee to talk about the “60 Minutes” report that aired Sunday.

The segment claimed Florida’s vaccine rollout was a pay-to-play scheme, and DeSantis said the report only contained part of his response and was edited.

During Wednesday’s press conference, DeSantis fired back, point by point.

“If they’re going to come down here and smear our efforts or smear me or smear great companies in our state, I’m going to hit them back right between the eyes,” DeSantis said.

If you didn’t see the “60 Minutes” story, you can watch it here. Correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi did a 13-minute report on what CBS called “corruption allegations clouding Florida’s efforts to vaccinate its residents.”

The program drew a line between campaign contributions from Publix to the governor’s political action committee and the governor’s decision to use Publix to distribute the vaccine.

“As part of the program in Palm Beach County, most seniors could no longer get vaccine appointments through their public health departments, they had to go to Publix instead,” the report alleged.

DeSantis came to Wednesday’s press conference armed with charts showing how he helped hospitals and churches deliver vaccines to people across Palm Beach County, including those in the Glades.

“They edited out that information from their piece. You know why they did that? Because the piece was preordained before they even stepped foot in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said.

He and Jared Moskowitz, the state’s director of emergency management, actually approached Walmart first, but Moskowitz said Walmart needed 21 days to be ready while Publix would only take 72 hours.

“The reason why I know this to be false is because the decision to use Publix was made in my office,” Moskowitz said.

“That was their goal, to simply to try to smear Florida, smear me, smear whoever they could in the process,” the governor said.

As for the exchange with the correspondent, DeSantis is adamant “60 Minutes” not airing his entire answer about the allegations misrepresented the facts.

“60 Minutes” said it stands by its story, and in a statement on Tuesday, said, “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. 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. The idea we ignored their 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. Our story Sunday night speaks for itself.”

WINK News has no editorial input or control over how CBS News Network covers a topic.

You can watch the press conference below or by clicking here.

CBS NEWS STATEMENT – 60 MINUTES REPORTING

Last week’s 60 Minutes story was about the vaccine roll-out to seniors in Palm Beach County and focused on a lack of access for minority communities. Governor DeSantis’ comments about this piece do not acknowledge that his senior constituents in the Glades did not have easy access to a Publix for the vaccine. The Glades is an underserved portion of Palm Beach County with a population of 31,000 that was the focus of the 60 Minutes report.

Publix was the only pharmacy in Palm Beach County to have the vaccine available for seniors in the general population of Palm Beach County in January. At this time, the mostly Black and Hispanic senior residents of the Glades would need to drive 25 miles if they had a car or take a long bus ride to the nearest Publix store, and that is if they could get a vaccine appointment online. Many people in the Glades do not own a computer or a smartphone.

At his press conference today, the Governor presented a list of hospitals, Health Department sites, faith based centers and pop-up sites as available vaccination sites for seniors in Palm Beach County. These were not available to most seniors in Palm Beach County in January and part of February. The majority of Palm Beach County seniors still needed to go to Publix for their doses, which was the focus of our story of the pharmacy program roll-out. The Governor referenced CVS and Walgreens, however vaccines did not reach those pharmacies in the Glades until late February for CVS and mid-March for Walgreens, well after the Governor began distributing the vaccine with Publix on Jan 21, 2021. (CVS and Walgreens distributed through a federal program vaccines to nursing homes; however they were not available in pharmacies for the general public). For this reason, the Governor’s comments about CVS and Walgreens were not included in the original broadcast.

As we said in our story on April 4, 2021, the vast majority of people in Palm Beach County had no other option than Publix pharmacies:

“AS PART OF THE PROGRAM IN PALM BEACH COUNTY, MOST SENIORS COULD NO LONGER GET VACCINE APPOINTMENTS THOUGH THEIR PUBLIC HEALTH DEPARTMENTS. THEY HAD TO GO TO PUBLIX INSTEAD.”

(60 Minutes 4/4/21)

Reporter:Zach Oliveri
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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