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’60 Minutes’ deceptively edits clip of Gov. DeSantis schooling reporter over vaccine ‘pay for play’ charge

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CBS News had a rough weekend, first being mired in controversy over an article that advocated for ways to “help fight Georgia’s restrictive new voting law” — the network was forced to eventually scrub the headline — and then running a “60 Minutes” feature on Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis that deceptively edited an exchange with one of its reporters.

In a clip widely seen as a political hatchet job, correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi asked DeSantis about using Florida supermarket chain Publix as a COVID vaccination site after the company made a large donation to his campaign.

“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 –” Alfonsi began.

“First, of all what you’re saying is wrong,” DeSantis angrily interrupted, before she could finish the question.

“…how is that not pay for play?” a hostile Alfonsi then finished.

(Video: CBS News)

“That’s a fake narrative,” DeSantis replied. “I met with the county mayor, I met with the administrator, I met with all the folks at 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.’ And they said, ‘We think that would be the easiest thing for our residents.”

It was then noted that Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay claimed DeSantis “never met with her about the Publix deal” — there are seven commissioners in the Democrat-run county.

The “60 Minutes” clip then cut to Alfonsi repeating the pay to play claim.

“And it’s wrong, it’s wrong,” the governor quickly corrected the reporter. “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 “60 Minutes” left on the cutting room floor several minutes of DeSantis detailing how a “multifaceted” approach was pursued, and that Publix, the largest supermarket chain in Florida with over 800 stores, an employee-owned, trusted chain that includes pharmacies, was the “first one to raise their hand” to say they were ready to distribute the vaccine.

That footage is seen here:

“First of all, the first pharmacies that had [the vaccine] 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 in December to do LTCs,” DeSantis said in the footage not shown. “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,” he continued. “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.”

The governor went on to explain that they did a trial run with Publix in three counties.

“I actually showed up that weekend and talked to seniors across four different Publix: ‘How was the experience, is this good, do you think this is the way to go?’ And it was 100% positive, so we expanded it and then folks liked it,” he said.

DeSantis also pointed out that when it came to vaccinations, Palm Beach County was “kinda struggling at first in terms of the senior numbers.”

“I went and met with the county mayor, I met with the administrator, I met with all the folks at Palm Beach County and I said here’s some of the options,” he explained. “We can do more drive-thru 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.”

But none of this was aired by “60 Minutes,” which appeared to take its cue from the Florida media that has been relentlessly hounding DeSantis over his handling of vaccine distribution from the jump.

It was also not mentioned that Publix donates to both Republican and Democratic candidates.

A Publix spokesperson blasted the “irresponsible” segment.

“The irresponsible suggestion that there was a connection between campaign contributions made to Gov. DeSantis and our willingness to join other pharmacies in support of the state’s vaccine distribution efforts is absolutely false and offensive,” the spokesperson 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,” the statement continued.

Not lost here is that DeSantis, who is seen as a Trump ally and is known to push back when the media puts political advocacy ahead of journalism, is up for reelection in Nov. 2022. He won in 2018 by just over 32,000 votes against Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum, who would later be found naked in a South Beach hotel room with a male prostitute and what appeared to be methamphetamine.

DeSantis is also seen as a potential frontrunner in the 2024 Republican presidential primary, should former President Donald Trump not run again.

Social media unloaded on “60 Minutes” for what many considered a hit piece — here’s a small sampling from Twitter:

Tom Tillison

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