Accuracy in Media

A 60 Minutes segment on CBS News was caught cutting out crucial context to a conference in which Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis explained the vaccination deal between his office and Florida grocery store giant Publix. 

According to 60 Minutes, the main grocery provider of the state donated $100,00 to the governor’s PAC, and weeks later was offered a deal to distribute COVID vaccines throughout the state.  The report accused the governor of “vaccine favoritism,” particularly because Publix does not have a location in Belle Glade, a low-income community in Palm Beach County.

“The reporting was not just based on bad information — it was intentionally false,” said Florida Democrat David Kerner, the mayor of Palm Beach County, shortly after the episode aired. “I know this because I offered to provide my insight into Palm Beach County’s vaccination efforts and 60 Minutes declined. They know that the governor came to Palm Beach County and met with me and the county administrator and we asked to expand the state’s partnership with Publix to Palm Beach County.”

But no matter. The show paired that information with a clip of a press conference in which 60 Minutes host Sharyn Alfonsi questioned DeSantis about the allegations, interrupting the governor repeatedly. The editing of the piece shows Alfonsi accusing DeSantis directly of pay-to-play vaccine schemes, while omitting information from the same press conference that mentioned the first pharmacies to distribute the vaccine in the state, CVS and Walgreens.

 

But 60 Minutes only aired the first part of DeSantis’ response to her question about Publix, omitting the part where DeSantis actually answered her question.

“First of all, the first pharmacies that had (the COVID-19 vaccine) 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 in 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,” DeSantis said.

So yes, you had the counties, you had some drive-thru 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.”

Yahoo News called out 60 Minutes as well, pointing out how far a leap they made to make the pay-for-play case.

“Not only is Publix the largest and most widely trusted grocery-store chain in the state of Florida, but the majority of its 831 stores in the state have well-equipped pharmacies at which Floridians are accustomed to getting flu shots,” Yahoo wrote. “Irrespective of any other logistical considerations, it would have been surprising if Publix had not been one of the major players in the state’s effort. It is true that Publix has recently given $100,000 to Ron DeSantis’s gubernatorial reelection bid.

“It is also true that it gave a million dollars to the progressive Urban League last year, and that, back in 2018, it gave $100,000 to Democratic campaigns in the state. To believe that there is a connection between this routine behavior and decisions that were made during an unforeseen once-in-a-century pandemic is to stretch oneself to the breaking point.

People took to Twitter to call out 60 Minutes for leaving out the vital context in the conversations about DeSantis’ vaccine distribution.

 

Both Publix and DeSantis denied the allegations of nefarious intent, and Publix posted a statement on its Twitter.

 

In addition to the clipped version of the DeSantis conference, 60 Minutes highlighted Belle Glades, a lower-income community 44 miles from Palm Beach, where the nearest Publix is 25 miles away and many residents do not own vehicles. 

60 Minutes tweeted a video of Glade resident and former NFL star Anquan Boldin, who advocated for a vaccination site in the community, specifically cutting out the part where Boldin thanks DeSantis for his help.

 

“I just want to thank the governor for a quick response, and how he addressed the need that we have out here in the Glades today,” Boldin said in the full-length video, which 60 Minutes cherry-picked from.

 




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