- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 7, 2021

CBS News may be ready to move on from its “60 Minutes” segment on Florida’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout, but Gov. Ron DeSantis isn’t.

The Republican governor continued Tuesday to assail the long-running news show for its story Sunday accusing him of giving the Publix grocery chain preferential treatment on COVID-19 vaccines, calling the report “horse manure” and accusing the network of selective editing.

“They cut everything that showed that their narrative was a piece of horse manure. And it shows you how dishonest — these are smear merchants,” Mr. DeSantis told reporters in Panama City. “That’s why nobody trusts corporate media. They are a disaster in what they’re doing.”

The colorful dressing-down came during a press conference on the Hurricane Michael recovery after reporters asked about his battle with CBS, which shows no signs of deescalating.

“I know corporate media thinks that they can just run over people,” Mr. DeSantis said. “You ain’t running over this governor. I’m punching back.”

CBS released a second statement Tuesday saying that Mr. DeSantis declined a request for an interview and that “60 Minutes” spoke twice to Jared Moskowitz, the state emergency management director, but that he declined to be interviewed on camera “until well after our deadline.”

“The idea we ignored their perspective is untrue,” said the CBS statement in an email. “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.”

On Monday, the network released a statement addressing its heavy editing of Mr. DeSantis’s explanation on how Publix was ready to begin vaccinating the general public before CVS and Walgreens because they were focused on long-term care facilities.

“As we always do for clarity, 60 MINUTES used the portion of the Governor’s over 2-minute response that directly addressed the question from the correspondent,” said the first CBS statement.

Mr. DeSantis said that “they lied and they lied and they lied.”

“We offered them information, and they declined to interview the key people because they didn’t want to let go of the narrative,” he said. “Well, guess what? There’s going to be consequences for that.”

The “60 Minutes” segment suggested Mr. DeSantis engaged in “pay to play” because his campaign received a $100,000 donation from Publix, the largest supermarket chain in the state, which the governor called a “fake narrative.”

Two Democrats — Mr. Moskowitz and Mr. Kerner — disputed the story and defended the state’s response, while Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay has challenged parts of the mayor’s account.

Mr. Moskowitz said Tuesday that he did in fact speak with “60 Minutes,” but took issue with the CBS statement’s framing.

“I did speak with @60Minutes. Never said I didn’t. They were very nice, but I told them that the @publix story was ‘bull—-t,’” he said in a tweet. “Walked them through the whole process. The fact that I didn’t sit down on ‘camera’ because I am responding to a 100 year emergency doesn’t change the truth.”

Mr. DeSantis has gained national prominence for his COVID-19 response, rejecting the economic lockdowns adopted by states such as California and New York and touting Florida’s strategy of prioritizing seniors for vaccines.

“The fact of the matter is, Florida has vaccinated 3.5 million seniors,” he said. “We were the first state in the country to put seniors first. The results of our efforts are that seniors are much less likely to be hospitalized for COVID than they were six months ago.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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