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DeSantis rips 'smear merchants' in media following '60 Minutes' segment

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) tore into journalists working for CBS News, calling them "smear merchants" and accusing them of peddling a "horse manure" narrative about the coronavirus vaccine rollout in his state.  

"These are smear merchants. That's why nobody trusts corporate media. They are a disaster in what they are doing," DeSantis said during a press conference in Panama City on Tuesday morning. "They knew what they were doing was a lie."

On Sunday evening, CBS reporter Sharyn Alfonsi presented a far-ranging report for "60 Minutes" that criticized DeSantis's vaccine rollout, accusing him of funneling vaccines to rich communities while using a privatized system that benefited political donors. 
 
The segment alleged that DeSantis gave a contract to distribute coronavirus vaccines to the grocery store chain Publix after the company made a sizable donation to his political action committee. 

"It's wrong. It's a fake narrative," DeSantis told Alfonsi. "I just disabused you of the narrative, and you don't care about the facts because obviously I just laid it out for you in a way that is irrefutable. So clearly it's not." 

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Defenders of the governor and some media critics accused CBS News of selectively editing DeSantis's comments to exclude a more thorough explanation of how the state government decided to award the contract to the grocery chain. 

In a statement on Tuesday afternoon, CBS News shot down DeSantis's criticism and said its reporting "speaks for itself." 

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"When Florida state data revealed people of color were vaccinated at a much lower rate than their wealthier neighbors, 60 Minutes reported the facts surrounding the vaccine’s rollout, which is controlled by the governor," the network said in a statement. "We requested and conducted interviews with dozens of sources and authorities involved. We requested an interview with Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - US vaccine effort takes hit with Johnson & Johnson pause Florida wastewater reservoir to close after leak, DeSantis says Republicans need to stop Joe Biden's progressive assault on America MORE, he declined; We spoke to State Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz twice, but he declined to be interviewed on camera for our story until well after our deadline." 

CBS said the governor's claim that its journalists ignored his administration's perspective is "untrue." 

"Counter to his statement yesterday, we also spoke on the record with Palm Beach County Mayor David Kerner. For over 50 years, the facts reported by 60 Minutes have often stirred debate and prompted strong reactions," the company said.    

DeSantis had claimed 60 Minutes did not seek comment from the key players involved in his vaccination rollout program. 

"I know corporate media thinks that they can just run over people. You ain't running over this governor," he said. "I'm punching back."

The bombastic Republican often spars with the press corps, members of which have at times been critical of his handling of the pandemic and other policies. 

DeSantis is up for reelection next year and is widely expected to consider a run for the Republican nomination for president in 2024.