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Politifact consults WaPo fact-checker before deciding ’60 Minutes’ vid on DeSantis ‘could’ be deceptive

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Noted media fact-checker Politifact had to rely on standards by The Washington Post to conclude that a “60 Minutes” segment accusing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis of scheming with a grocery chain to distribute COVID vaccines “could” be considered “deceptive editing.”

In a Wednesday post, Politifact’s Daniel Funke analyzed the controversial segment,  which aired Sunday, in which “60 Minutes” correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi pressed the Republican governor about whether a $100,000 donation to his PAC from Publix in December led to a decision to award the company with agreements to distribute vaccines.

Alfonsi confronted DeSantis during a press conference, accusing him of engaging in a “pay-for-play” with Publix, which the governor vehemently denied and then spent about three minutes explaining.

“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,” she said.

“So, first of all, what you’re saying is wrong,” DeSantis pushed back.

“How is that no pay-for-play?” Alfonsi pressed.

“That’s a fake narrative. I met with the county mayor, I met with the administrator, I met with all the folks of Palm Beach County and I said: Here’s some of the options. We can do more drive-thru sites, we can give more to hospitals, we can do the Publix. And they said we think (Publix would) be the easiest thing for our residents,” the governor responded.

“The criticism is that it’s pay-to-play, governor,” Alfonsi says. 

“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. And so it’s clearly not,” DeSantis said in the segment.

But there was much more context to the governor’s response that “60 Minutes” did not air, which is where the controversy stems.

Funke wrote: 

DeSantis’ full response to Alfonsi’s questions took about three minutes. While “60 Minutes” focused on his emphatic denial, it left out the background that he offered about how the state had been working with other retail pharmacies to distribute coronavirus vaccines at long-term care facilities in December and his own interactions with Publix customers.

 

“I gave a very detailed answer, and that answer was edited out. Every single fact that I discussed was edited out,” DeSantis said on Wednesday at another press conference. “Everything they left on the cutting room floor was designed to take away all the evidence against their narrative. It was malicious what they did.”

Left out of the “60 Minutes” segment was a lengthy explanation about how other retail chains including CVS, Walmart, and Walgreens were also under consideration, but that local and regional leaders DeSantis met with agreed that Publix was a better option because there were more stores in closer proximity to the most vulnerable populations.

For its part, CBS News has defended the segment in three separate statements, the latest of which was issued on Wednesday.

“Last week’s 60 Minutes story was about the vaccine roll-out to seniors in Palm Beach County and focused on a lack of access for minority communities,” CBS told Fox News in a statement. “Governor DeSantis’ comments about this piece do not acknowledge that his senior constituents in the Glades did not have easy access to a Publix for the vaccine. The Glades is an underserved portion of Palm Beach County with a population of 31,000 that was the focus of the 60 Minutes report.” 

But even Democratic officials and leaders in Florida dismissed the “60 Minutes” report as false, with State Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz saying that he told the show the Publix story was “bulls**t.”

Still, Politifact’s Funke could not make an independent determination about whether CBS had “deceptively edited” the exchange between Alfonsi and DeSantis, though clearly most of the governor’s explanation was not shown.

“‘Deceptive editing” means a clip ‘has been edited and rearranged,’ according to the Washington Post’s guide to manipulated video,” Funke wrote. “Deceptive editing can include omission (‘editing out large portions from a video and presenting it as a complete narrative’ to ‘skew reality’) and splicing (‘editing together disparate videos (that) fundamentally alters the story that is being told’).

“By omitting DeSantis’ remarks on why the state partnered with Publix to distribute vaccines in Palm Beach County, the ’60 Minutes’ clip could fall into the former category,” he added, in a finding that was widely mocked on social media.

Jon Dougherty

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