DeSantis Accuses CBS Of 'Editing Out' Key Facts for Vaccine Expose Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the opening of the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Hyatt Regency on February 26, 2021 in Orlando, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
By Sandy Fitzgerald | Tuesday, 06 April 2021 09:30 AM
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Tuesday accused CBS' "60 Minutes" of "editing out" the key facts he gave its reporter for an expose about the coronavirus vaccine rollout in his state that accused him of making the vaccines more available to certain places because of political donations.
"A lot of Americans don't believe corporate media anymore for precisely this reason," the Republican governor told Fox News' "Fox and Friends." "These people like this reporter, you know, they are basically ambulance chasers with a microphone. They are not trustworthy. They lie. We know they're lying. They know that we know they're lying and they lie and lie and lie and lie."
CBS' Sharyn Alfonsi, in an extensive report for "60 Minutes," reported allegations airing Sunday night that the governor had privatized the state vaccine rollout to benefit large donors who donated to his campaign and that he'd funneled the vaccines to wealthy communities at a time when minorities have been struggling to have access to the vaccine.
Alfonsi also reported that the Republican governor had given a contract to the grocery chain Publix to distribute the vaccines exclusively in the Palm Beach area after the company donated $100,000 to his campaign.
The governor would not agree to an interview from Alfonsi, so she caught up with him at a press conference. Tuesday, he told Fox News that he gave her a "very detailed two-minute response" at the press conference, but "they edited out all the facts."
"The reason why Palm Beach wanted to do Publix, they have 65 Publix (stores) and 90% of their seniors live within a mile and a half of them," said the governor. "We were in a situation where that was very convenient, and it made a lot of sense. CBS cut that out and acted like we weren't trying to make it widely available."
He also rejected the report that he'd made a deal with the grocery chain.
"They are one of the most respected companies in Florida," he said. "People love it. It would be malpractice not to use them as a distribution point, but the state never paid them a dime to do any of this."
Further, at the time, CVS and Walgreens were administering vaccines at various senior facilities from the beginning of the campaign, and "we wanted them to finish the mission."
But at this point, more than 3.5 million people over the age of 65 have gotten their shots in Florida, so "we've done one of the best jobs in the country protecting our seniors," the governor said. "The results speak for themselves but they didn't want to tell you that because they knew that would blow up their narrative."
CBS has defended its reporting to Fox News, with a spokesperson commenting that "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."
DeSantis, however, also said the network refused to interview the two Palm Beach County officials he spoke with, both of whom are Democrats.
"CBS declined to talk to them, because they knew that if they talked to them, they would blow up CBS's narrative," said DeSantis. "They knew if they used them they wouldn't be able to do innuendo, so they were looking to do a hit job on me trying to smear me just because I'm in the other party.
He also pointed out that there are many people who have come from New York to Florida to try to get their shots.
Meanwhile, starting on Monday the state opened up its vaccines to all people over the age of 16.
"Our seniors-first approach has worked and it's now allowed us to open it up to everyone, one month before the federal government recommended it.
The CBS report also noted that the decision to put the shots in Publix left out people of color in locations where the stores were not available, but DeSantis noted there were special sites set up, including in Pahokee, a city in the western part of Palm Beach County that has a predominantly Black population, when concerns arose about the availability of the shots.
"CBS didn't tell you that," he said. "They didn't tell you we were partnering with African-American churches at the beginning of January before any other state in the country. We were at churches on Sundays (giving shots to) hundreds of mostly African-American parishioners. They didn't want to tell you that because it would have destroyed their narrative."