The business on April 4 examined the COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Florida, which has undergone a similar COVID-19 death rate to California and other states despite having much looser limitations.
In one fiery dispute, a reporter pressed Gov. Ron DeSantis on the use of Publix stores to offer vaccines, claiming the fact that Publix donated $100,000 to his political action committee before the chain was chosen could be seen as evidence of a “pay-for-play” plot.
DeSantis called the claim “a fake narrative,” offering a long description of what had actually happened. It included state officials reaching out to pharmacies besides CVS and Walgreens because those two companies were tasked with passing vaccines to long-term care facilities. Publix was the first to say it was fit for the second set of distribution and administration.
DeSantis also said he attended four different Publix stores during a trial run and found feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and that he asked for advice from Palm Beach officials.
“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 percent 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,'” he said.
“60 Minutes” dropped 356 words from DeSantis’ 423-word answer. The reporter then quoted her “pay for play” charge.
“I just disabuse you of the narrative. And you don’t care about the facts,” DeSantis said.
Jared Moskowitz, a former Democratic state senator who now manages the state Division of Emergency Management, said in a tweet on April 4 that Publix was confirmed by his agency, “as the other pharmacies were not ready to start.”
“No one from the Governor's office suggested Publix. It’s just absolute malarkey,” he wrote.
In a statement on April 5, Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner, also a Democrat, said the “60 Minutes” reporting was “intentionally false.”
“I know this because I offered to provide my insight into Palm Beach County’s vaccination efforts and 60 minutes declined,” he said, adding that he and other officials asked the governor to expand the state’s partnership with Publix, not the other way around.
“We asked and he delivered,” Kerner wrote. “They had that information, and they left it out because it kneecaps their narrative.”
Publix, in a statement to news outlets, called the idea of a link between campaign donations and the vaccination efforts “irresponsible.”