Updated 4/5/2021, 3:45 p.m. ET: The Democratic mayor of Palm Beach County, Dave Kerner, on Monday said he felt "compelled" to issue a statement after watching the "60 Minutes" segment featuring Gov. Ron DeSantis and vaccination efforts in the county.
"The reporting was not just based on bad information — it was intentionally false," Kerner said. "I know this because I offered to provide my insight into Palm Beach County's vaccination efforts and 60 minutes declined. They know that the Governor came to Palm Beach County and met with me and the County Administrator and 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.
"We have confronted this pandemic for over a year. 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," he continued.
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CBS News' "60 Minutes" was blasted on Sunday by a top Democratic official in Florida and the state's largest grocery store chain after it aired a deceptively edited segment insinuating that Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) engaged in a "pay to play" scheme with COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
On Sunday evening, CBS News' Sharyn Alfonsi reported that DeSantis received a $100,000 donation to his PAC from Publix grocery stores, which later partnered with the state to distribute COVID-19 vaccines. "60 Minutes" aired a clip of Alfonsi confronting DeSantis at a new conference south of Orlando, accusing the governor of "pay to play" by giving Publix exclusive rights to distribute the vaccine after he received that donation.
The governor said Alfonsi was "wrong" and spreading a "fake narrative" and proceeded to correct the record, but his long answer was cut out of the segment by CBS News' editors.
The Daily Wire reported the transcript of the segment, highlighting in bold the parts of DeSantis' answer that were edited out of the clip.
Sharyn Alfonsi: 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—
Ron DeSantis: So, first of all, that — what you're saying is wrong. That's—
Sharyn Alfonsi: How is that not pay-to-play?
Ron DeSantis: —that, that's a fake narrative. So, first of all, when we did, the first pharmacies that had it 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 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-through sites, you had hospitals that were doing a lot, but we wanted to get it into communities more. 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. 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 this good? Should you think this is a way to go? And it was 100% positive. So we expanded it, and then folks liked it. And I can tell you, if you look at a place like Palm Beach County, they were kind of struggling at first in terms of the senior numbers. I went, 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-through sites, we can give more to hospitals, we can do the Publix, we can do this." They calculated that 90% of their seniors live within a mile and a half of a Publix. And they said, "We think that would be the easiest thing for our residents." So, we did that, and what ended up happening was, you had 65 Publix in Palm Beach. Palm Beach is one of the biggest counties, one of the most elderly counties, we've done almost 75% of the seniors in Palm Beach, and the reason is because you have the strong retail footprint. So our way has been multifaceted. It has worked. And we're also now very much expanding CVS and Walgreens, now that they've completed the long-term care mission.
Sharyn Alfonsi: The criticism is that it's pay-to-play, governor.
Ron DeSantis: 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.
Sharyn Alfonsi: Well, I— I was just—
Ron DeSantis: And, so, it's clearly not.
Sharyn Alfonsi: Isn't there the nearest Publix —
Ron DeSantis: No, no, no. You're wrong.
Sharyn Alfonsi: —30 miles away.
Ron DeSantis: You're wrong. You're wrong. Yes, sir?
Sharyn Alfonsi: That's actually a fact.
"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 in a scathing statement provided to "60 Minutes."
"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," the grocery store said.
Florida's director of emergency management, Jared Moskowitz, the Democratic state official responsible for directing the response to the pandemic under Gov. DeSantis, came to the governor's defense and called Alfonsi's narrative "absolute malarkey."