The nationally broadcast CBS news show 60 Minutes is under fire from some unlikely corners after the show accused Governor Ron DeSantis of “vaccine favoritisms,” specifically for allegedly giving vaccines to political supporters in wealthy neighborhoods and allowing Publix, which donated to the governor, to administer the vaccine in its stores. But even Democrats are coming to the governor’s defense, calling the 60 Minutes segment unfair and untruthful.
On Monday, the Mayor of Palm Beach County, Dave Kerner, a Democrat, issued a statement in response to Sunday’s 60 Minutes segment. He said he felt compelled to do so.
“The reporting was not just based on bad information — it was intentionally false,” Kerner said.
He went on to explain that he offered to speak with 60 Minutes about Palm Beach County’s vaccination efforts, and they didn’t want to talk. He said the 60 Minutes crew knew the governor met with him and the county manager in Palm Beach County and emphasized that it wasn’t DeSantis pushing Publix in Palm Beach County.
Kerner said “We asked to expand the state’s partnership with Publix to Palm Beach County. We also discussed our own local plans to expand mass vaccination centers throughout the county, which the Governor has been incredibly supportive. We asked and he delivered. They had that information, and they left it out because it kneecaps their narrative.”
He went on to say, “Our residents, like all Americans, are tired. And the media is making it worse. They are hellbent on dividing us for cheap views and clicks. 60 Minutes should be ashamed.”
Jared Moskowitz, outgoing director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, also a Democrat. said this in a series of Tweets, “@60Minutes I said this before, and I’ll say it again. @Publix was recommended by @FLSERT and @HealthyFla as the other pharmacies were not ready to start. Period! Full Stop! No one from the Governor’s office suggested Publix. It’s just absolute malarkey.”
He continued, “This idea why @Publix was picked has been utter nonsense. We reached out to all pharmacies and they were the only one who at the time could execute on the mission. The federal government delayed the federal pharmacy program and we yet again stepped up first to serve more seniors.”
Denied an interview with the governor, CBS reporter Sharyn Alfonsie asked DeSantis at one of his many daily COVID-related press conferences if having Publix distribute the vaccines was “pay to play.”
She said, “Publix, as you know, donated $100,000 to your campaign. And then you rewarded them with the exclusive rights to distribute the vaccination in Palm Beach County. How is that not pay to play?”
The governor visibly bristled at the allegation but continued, “First of all, what you’re saying is wrong. That’s a fake narrative. 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.”
Alfonsi pressed, “The criticism is that it’s pay-to-play, governor.”
DeSantis said, “And it’s wrong. It’s wrong. 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.”
But there was more of the exchange than 60 Minutes chose to show.
DeSantis gave a full explanation about how at the time CVS and Walgreens were being used to focus on the long-term care facilities and were not yet vaccinating seniors at the pharmacies. He told Alfonsi that Publix offered help when they were looking for a way to help distribute to more people, and that Palm Beach County requested that help from Publix. He continued to explain that the program was tested before it was rolled out and was met with a very positive response from those who participated, which led DeSantis to expand the distribution of the vaccine to more and more Publix locations across the state.
60 Minutes also failed to report that Publix is, by far, the largest supermarket outlet for the vaccine, with 819 stores in Florida. Walmart is a far second with 149 stores.
Publix also fired back at the 60 Minutes segment.
“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. 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.”
In same segment, Alfonsi also accused the governor of giving the vaccine to his wealthy donors first.
She said, “During those months, we watched Florida’s vaccine rollout deteriorate into a virtual free for all and watched as some wealthy and well-connected residents cut the line, leaving other Floridians without a fair shot.”
What she failed to mention was other nursing homes, long-term facilities and hospitals across the state were allowing the wealthy and well-connected to cut in line, not just in “red” Republican areas of the state.
The Capitolist reported in January that Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, who’s board is approved by a deep “blue” Tallahassee City Commission, also vaccinated its board members, several of whom were under the age of 65, in mid-December while high risk Leon County seniors and residents waited for access to one of the only 6,500 doses available at the time. Similar reports popped up all over the state.