CBS issues new statement backing DeSantis report, again fails to defend ‘pay-for-play’ narrative

CBS News issued a third statement defending its “60 Minutes” report targeting Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis late Wednesday, though the network continued to avoid discussing the story’s most explosive claim. 

DeSantis has accused “60 Minutes” of lying and pushing a false narrative about a “pay-for-play” scheme in which he allegedly rewarded the grocery store chain Publix with coronavirus vaccine distribution rights after the company donated $100,000 to his campaign. The allegation triggered a fierce backlash, including from Florida Democrats who defended the GOP governor. 

CBS News doubled down in a statement provided to Fox News, but focused not on the alleged corruption, but the racial disparities of vaccine distribution.

“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 began. “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.”

POLITIFACT ADMITS CBS ‘COULD’ HAVE ‘DECEPTIVELY EDITED’ DESANTIS REMARKS, STOPS SHORT OF STATING IT AS FACT

The statement stressed that Publix was the “only” pharmacy in Palm Beach County to have access to the vaccine in January, when “the mostly Black and Hispanic senior residents of the Glades would need to drive 25 miles if they had a car or take a bus ride to the nearest pharmacy.” The statement added that many residents of the Glades “do not own a computer or a smartphone.”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis holds a media briefing concerning the COVID-19 vaccines at the Publix Supermarket at Treasure Coast Plaza on Tuesday, January 26, 2021, in Vero Beach.Tcn Desantis Publix 1

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis holds a media briefing concerning the COVID-19 vaccines at the Publix Supermarket at Treasure Coast Plaza on Tuesday, January 26, 2021, in Vero Beach.Tcn Desantis Publix 1
(Reuters)

CBS News dismissed the list of hospitals, health care facilities, faith-based centers, and pop-up sites DeSantis presented at a press conference earlier Wednesday, insisting they were “not available to most seniors in Palm Beach County in January and part of February” and that a “majority” still have to rely on Publix to get the vaccine. 

“The Governor referenced CVS and Walgreens, however vaccines did not reach those pharmacies in the Glades until late February for CVS and mid-March for Walgreens, well after the Governor began distributing the vaccine with Publix on Jan 21, 2021,” CBS News stated, alluding to the federal program that targeted long-term care communities. “For this reason, the Governor’s comments about CVS and Walgreens were not included in the original broadcast.”

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The omission of DeSantis’ comments led to the allegations of deceptive editing in order to push the “pay-for-play” narrative. 

DeSantis had explained to “60 Minutes” correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi that Walgreens and CVS were focused on long-term care communities to vaccinate seniors while Publix “raised their hand” first to further implement the vaccine rollout. 

Florida State Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz, a Democrat, said he told “60 Minutes” that the Publix story was “bulls—.”

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