Democrat Florida Politician Lawmaker Defends DeSantis After Deceptive 60 Minutes Edit: ‘Absolute Malarkey’

MIAMI, FL - JULY 13: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference on the surge of coronavirus Covid-19 cases in Florida held at the Jackson Memorial Hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic on July 13, 2020 in Miami, Florida. Credit: mpi04/MediaPunch /IPX
mpi04/MediaPunch /IPX/via AP

Jared Maskowitz (D), director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, defended Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on Sunday after CBS News’s 60 Minutes ran a deceptive segment of a press conference exchange where a reporter effectively accused DeSantis of pay-for-play in the state’s vaccine distribution efforts.

CBS News came under fire over the weekend after featuring a misleading exchange between DeSantis and 60 Minutes correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi, where she seemingly attempted to draw a connection between a campaign contribution from the company and the state tapping the chain to assist in vaccine distribution.

Maskowitz explained in a fiery tweet that both the Florida Division of Emergency Management and Florida Department of Health recommended Publix, as other pharmacies were not ready to begin.

@60Minutes I said this before and I’ll say it again. @Publix was recommended by @FLSERT and @HealthyFla as the other pharmacies were not ready to start. Period! Full Stop!” Maskowitz said.  “No one from the Governors office suggested Publix. It’s just absolute malarkey.”:

CBS News featured only a partial transcript of DeSantis’s exchange with Alfonsi, leaving out crucial context.

“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 said, prompting DeSantis to point out her angle was inaccurate, or “wrong.”

“How is that not pay-to-play?” she asked.

“That, that’s a fake narrative,” DeSantis said — a line which CBS featured in the segment. However, it omitted the crucial context of DeSantis’s answer, where he explained other pharmacies, such as CVS and Walgreens, were the first that had access and focused on a “long-term care mission”:

In January, DeSantis continued, the state sought to “expand the distribution points” and reached out to retail pharmacies, including Publix and Walmart. He identified Publix as “the first one to raise their hand” and say they “were ready to go,” even mentioning the percentage of seniors who live within a mile and a half from a Publix.

DeSantis full answer:

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.

Alfonsi responded by repeating the criticism, which she claimed were concerns over “pay-to-play.”  

“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,” DeSantis shot back.

Publix has also denied the false impression, calling it “absolutely false and offensive”:

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