Sunday, 60 Minutes opted to avoid covering ongoing political scandals, such as the crisis at the border, to make up one of its own. 60 Minutes set aim toward Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The CBS evening program — that I sometimes catch for a few minutes after the end of an NFL game — accused DeSantis of funneling the state’s coronavirus vaccines to rich, white communities and giving a contract to distribute the vaccines to Publix only because the grocery chain donated to DeSantis’ action committee.
Funneling money and helping white people, they say.
CBS aired the following clip, a heated exchange between DeSantis and reporter Sharyn Alfonsi:
“Publix, as you know, donated $100,000 to your campaign,” Alfonsi yelled to DeSantis. “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 quickly interrupted.
“How is that not pay for play?” Alfonsi responded.
DeSantis 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.”
DeSantis says Publix was deemed by many people as the best initial option:
“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-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.'”
Sunday, Sharyn Alfonsi investigates allegations that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis made decisions about COVID vaccine distribution favoring wealthy or connected individuals, including a supermarket chain that recently donated to the governor's PAC. https://t.co/VbVdXJ3xxv pic.twitter.com/6mbxfMdgPg
— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) April 2, 2021
Alfonsi and CBS failed to mention that Publix is the most ubiquitous grocery chain in Florida, so it was therefore the most logical company to partner with to distribute the vaccine. The Federalist reported Monday that Publix’s donations totaled less than 3 percent of what DeSantis got in political contributions for February alone.
“No one claims that Publix did a bad job with the vaccine distribution, or that they inappropriately pocketed the money from the program, which has been widely viewed as successful,” Mollie Hemingway writes. “Alfonsi’s position seems to be that since Publix made a typical contribution to DeSantis, he should have banned the grocery chain’s hundreds of pharmacy locations from helping distribute the vaccine to Florida’s vulnerable and aging population.”
In addition, DeSantis says Publix first raised its hand to help while CVS and Walgreens were focusing on long-term care missions.
“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. 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.
A.G. Hamilton first, and others since, even accused CBS of cutting “out several minutes” of the governor’s comments.
In essence, to air an hour-long hit piece on DeSantis, 60 Minutes connected two dots while skipping over the many in between. That’s not surprising. As damning facts emerge against Andrew Cuomo and Gavin Newsom’s handling of COVID, the national media needs to distract the public’s attention. And given his popularity among Republicans, DeSantis is a top target.