Democratic Florida mayor calls ’60 Minutes’ reporting on state’s vaccine rollout ‘intentionally false’

A Publix grocery store in Delray Beach, Fla., hosted coronavirus vaccinations earlier this year
Getty Images

The mayor of Palm Beach County, Fla. on Monday joined criticism of “60 Minutes’” reporting on Florida’s coronavirus vaccine rollout, calling it “intentionally false.”

A story on the vaccination drive from CBS’s Sharyn Alfonsi that aired on “60 Minutes” Sunday made a number of allegations against Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), including linking his partnership with Publix grocery stores to distribute vaccines in their pharmacies to recent political action committee contributions from the company.

According to campaign finance reports cited by “60 Minutes,” Publix donated $100,000 to the PAC Friends of Ron DeSantis weeks before he gave the grocery store exclusive rights to distribute the vaccine in Palm Beach County.

CBS News also noted that Julie Jenkins Fancelli, the heiress to the Publix fortune, has given $55,000 to the governor’s PAC in the past, in addition to Fancelli’s brother-in-law, Hoyt R. Barnett, a retired Publix executive, who donated $25,000 in November.

When asked about the donations and the deal with Publix, DeSantis told Alfonsi it was a “fake narrative.”

“That’s a fake narrative. 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-thru sites. We can give more to hospitals. We can do the Publix.’ And they said, ‘We think that would be the easiest thing for our residents,’” DeSantis said.

Publix also told “60 Minutes” there is no connection between its campaign contributions and its partnership with the state.

On Monday, the Democratic mayor of Palm Beach County, Dave Kerner, denounced the reporting in “60 Minutes,” claiming in a statement that the county asked to expand the state’s partnership with Publix.

“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,” Kerner said.

“We also discussed our own local plans to expand mass vaccinations centers throughout the country, which the Governor has been incredibly supportive. We asked and he delivered. They had that information, and they left it out because it kneecaps their narrative,” he continued.

Kerner added that he knows the reporting was “not just based on bad information — it was intentionally false,” because he offered to “provide my insight into Palm Beach County’s vaccination efforts and 60 minutes declined.”

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, however, called the mayor’s statement “NOT accurate.” She wrote on Twitter that the county “NEVER ASKED FOR SOLE DISTRIBUTION!”

McKinlay added that Kerner told her that he was told by DeSantis to keep one meeting private, though it was not immediately clear to what meeting she was referring.

When asked for comment on Kerner’s statement, a “60 Minutes” spokesperson told The Hill that “As we always do for clarity, 60 MINUTES used the portion of the Governor’s over 2-minute response that directly addressed the question from the correspondent.”

The spokesperson also noted that the program had twice asked DeSantis for an in-depth interview.

Tags 60 Minutes CBS News Coronavirus coronavirus vaccine Florida Palm Beach County, Florida Publix Ron DeSantis vaccine distribution
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