On Wednesday Republican Governor of Florida is calling on “60 Minutes” to admit that an April 4 hit piece it aired about the governor and Florida’s vaccine rollout was “false.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis said on Fox & Friends that “they’ve issued a lot of mealy-mouthed statements since the episode aired, they knew what they were putting on the air was false.”
He said that CBS News producers talked to people who knew the story was false but “refused” to put them on the air.
The newsmagazine has come under fire for the allegation, a would-be bombshell made in passing and without firm evidence aside from public finance records and editing that has been criticized as misleading—not least by DeSantis himself, who on Tuesday claimed the show “cut out everything that proved their narrative was a piece of horse manure.” The night before, he appeared on Fox News, telling Tucker Carlson that the report “is a baseless conspiracy theory” deployed “with malicious intent and a reckless disregard for the truth.”
Among the elected officials who have come out against the segment is Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner, a Democrat, who said on Monday that 60 Minutes’ “reporting was not just based on bad information” but was “intentionally false” given he had “offered to provide my insight into Palm Beach County’s vaccination efforts and 60 Minutes declined.” According to Kerner, the county, not the governor, was the driving force behind the state’s expanded partnership with Publix—information he said the network excluded “because it kneecaps their narrative.” Publix, too, denounced the “irresponsible suggestion” as “absolutely false and offensive.” A 60 Minutes spokesperson defended the story in a statement on Tuesday, noting that DeSantis had declined an interview request and, contrary to Kerner’s statement the day before, spoke to Kerner on the record for the piece.
Here is a new, much lengthier statement from a “60 Minutes” spokesperson defending the newsmagazine’s much-criticized story on Florida’s vaccine rollout. pic.twitter.com/n6IR51Vy8a
— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) April 6, 2021
“They know that they got caught, so they never even addressed that, they just issued these mealy-mouthed statements, but what I would say to ’60 Minutes’ and the American people, they have so much contempt for their viewers to try to gaslight them like this,” DeSantis said. “You know what, admit that it was false. That’s the responsible thing to do.”
The now-infamous “60 Minutes” report suggested DeSantis gave the Publix grocery store chain preferable treatment to offer the coronavirus vaccine based on its donations to his PAC, while also painting the governor as a villain who prioritized at-risk senior citizens over teachers. CBS News has maintained it did nothing wrong, but critics, including Florida Democrats, have found multiple issues with the reporting.
“These are corporate media operatives … They had a political mission to smear me, they thought that they could do it, drive-by, and just go on to the next target,” DeSantis said. “But I have a platform, I have the ability to fight back. We have done that, we’re going to continue to do that.”
CBS News did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Florida state officials have claimed they wanted to speak to “60 Minutes” and offer their side of the story, but the program insists they missed a deadline for an on-camera interview, and information they relayed was instead used on the background.
Democratic state officials, conservative pundits, Floridians, and journalism professors alike have called for CBS News to retract or correct the story. Instead, the network put out multiple statements defending the report but never responded to specific criticism tied to pay-for-play allegations. The long-running news magazine acknowledged the backlash on Sunday without offering an apology or correction.
“In the mail this week, comments on our story about disparities in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccine in Palm Beach County, Florida. Viewers focused on an exchange with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at a press conference. Some viewers, including a retired newsman, applauded the story,” correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi told viewers Sunday when addressing the controversy.
“But many more comments condemned our editing and reporting,” Alfonsi continued before reading a pair of letters with negative feedback.
The segment has been called by even left-wing media pundits and a Democratic elected official but “60 Minutes” has yet to correct the record or apologize.
Watch it here: Fox News/Youtube