Society of Professional Journalists: 60 Minutes ‘Should Have Provided More Context’ to DeSantis Segment

(INSET: CBS News correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi) Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks the media at a coronavirus vaccination site at Lakewood Ranch Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, in Bradenton, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Chris O'Meara/AP, CBS News

The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) on Monday released a statement on the controversial 60 Minutes clip featuring an incomplete exchange between Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and 60 Minutes correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi, concluding the show “was not obligated to show an entire two-minute interview” but adding it “should have provided more context.”

While SPJ explained it is “common practice for print, TV and radio reporters to use portions of longer quotes in a piece,” SPJ Ethics Committee Chair Danielle McLean concluded 60 Minutes “should have at least summed up the on-the-record context from the governor, especially since the segment reported the selection of a vaccine distributor may have been influenced by pay-to-play.”

“But I do think Gov. DeSantis provided valuable context about the process the state went through that led to the decision to distribute vaccines at Publix grocery stores,” McLean said in the statement:

I think ‘60 Minutes’ should have at least summed up the on-the-record context from the governor, especially since the segment reported the selection of a vaccine distributor may have been influenced by pay-to-play. If I were an editor or producer, I would have told the reporter to keep digging to verify or disprove those claims made by Gov. DeSantis. Pay-to-play may have very well factored into the decision, but I do not believe the ‘60 Minutes’ piece proved that. More reporting and context on the government’s decision-making was needed in this case.

The controversial segment featured an incomplete exchange between the governor and 60 Minutes correspondent 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,” Alfonsi said, asking “how is that not pay-to-play?”

However, CBS opted to only air a small portion of DeSantis’s answer, making it look as if the governor dodged the question. In reality, DeSantis denied the allegation as a “fake narrative” and detailed the other pharmacies that have been involved in vaccine distribution in the state and the reasons they were tapped. Publix stood as one of the main retailers “ready to go.”

DeSantis’s comprehensive answer included the following:

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.

But as Breitbart News previously detailed, 60 Minutes featured DeSantis’s line, “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'” and cut out the portion where DeSantis highlighted the main factors contributing to the decision:

Publix stepped forth with a strong statement following the segment’s airing, calling the assertions “irresponsible” and “absolutely false and offensive”:

Even far-left PolitiFact admitted the CBS clip “could constitute deceptive editing.”


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