- The Washington Times - Monday, April 5, 2021

The pathetic, partisan mainstream media tried (and failed) to take another shot at their preferred villain in American politics — Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

CBS’ “60 Minutes” ran a narrative on Sunday night that Mr. DeSantis chose Publix grocery stores to distribute COVID-19 vaccinations in its pharmacies because the chain donated $100,000 to his political action committee. 

The problem with this pay-to-play thesis? 60 Minutes had to work really hard to make it convincing — because the full story of the Sunshine State’s vaccination rollout refutes it.

“60 Minutes” edited a clip of Mr. DeSantis defending the move, erasing all context and quotes and also omitting the fact that Publix is Florida’s largest grocery store chain, making it a natural choice for vaccine distribution.

Last month, Mr. DeSantis answered questions from CBS on the pay-to-play allegations during a press conference — which the news organization deceptively didn’t include in Sunday night’s segment.

“That’s a fake narrative,” Mr. DeSantis replied to the half-baked allegation. 

“So, first of all, when we did [make the Publix decision], the first pharmacies that had it were CVS and Walgreens. And they had a long-term care mission,” Mr. DeSantis explained. “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 in 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-thru sites, you had the hospitals doing a lot, but we wanted to get it into communities more,” he added. “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.

Mr. DeSantis continued: “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 it good? Should you think this is a way to go? And it was 100% positive. So, we expanded it, and then folks liked it.”

Every word of his lengthy response above was left on the editing room floor at CBS — it never made it to air. 

Mr. DeSantis also added 90% of the seniors who shopped in Publix stores lived within a mile and a half of the grocery chain, making it easy on the Sunshine State’s residents to travel to and get a shot. Seems like an easy decision to make, no?

Jared Maskowitz, the director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management and a Democrat, also chimed in on Twitter to defend the action.

“@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,” Mr. Moskowitz tweeted. “Period! Full Stop! No one from the Governor[‘]s office suggested Publix. It’s just absolute malarkey.”

Publix also took offense with the “60 Minutes” report, slamming it in a statement.

“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,” Publix said. “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.”

Florida has teamed up with 1,600 pharmacies to distribute vaccinations, including 730 Publix pharmacies, more than 150 CVS stores, more than 125 Sam’s Club and Walmart locations, and more than 70 Winn-Dixie locations. 

Florida was the first state to prioritize seniors in their vaccination rollout — which makes sense, because they’re the most vulnerable population to coronavirus. In January, Florida led the nation in vaccines for ages 65 and older, as of last month, the Sunshine state trailed only North Carolina in the percentage of people over 65 who had been vaccinated thus far.

As a result of this success, Mr. DeSantis has expanded eligibility to all adults 18 years and older. But you didn’t hear those facts on 60 Minutes.

In addition to answering 60 Minutes‘ question directly, Mr. DeSantis‘ team offered to have multiple experts talk with CBS to refute their perceived narrative of pay-to-play, and talk about their strategy, but CBS refused to interview them, according to reporting by the Federalist. Notably, Mr. Moskowitz — the Sunshine State’s coronavirus point-person and Democrat who tweeted his disgust with the report — didn’t appear in their segment. 

So why run the segment? That’s easy, Mr. DeSantis is an up-and-coming Republican with a real shot at the presidency in 2024. Better to smear him now with partisan propaganda than to allow him to grow his base and national persona. It’s not like there are Democratic governors with worse track records and actual scandals to cover (never mind New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s nursing home cover-up or California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recall).

CBS’ bias against Republicans is transparent. In 2004, “60 Minutes” star reporter Dan Rather relied on forged documents trying to sink Republican George W. Bush’s presidential run by saying he received preferential treatment while serving in the Texas National Guard. “60 Minutes” disregarded evidence that the narrative was wrong and defended the piece for two weeks until the real truth emerged. 

“The fact is that basic journalistic steps were not carried out in a manner consistent with accurate and fair reporting, leading to countless misstatements and omissions in the reporting by 60 Minutes Wednesday and CBS News,” an independent panel said of the report at the time. Four executives and senior producers were fired — but it seems CBS still hasn’t learned its lesson.

It’s their continued partisan reporting why trust in the mainstream news media is at an all-time low and why Mr. DeSantis‘ political career may just be accelerated — because everyone can see right through it.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide