State Watch

DeSantis spars with ’60 Minutes’ over vaccine rollout: ‘What you’re saying is wrong’

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) sharply shot down reporting by “60 Minutes” alleging he funneled the state’s coronavirus vaccines to rich communities and privatized the vaccine rollout to benefit donors while many minorities in the state struggle to obtain access to an inoculation. 

CBS reporter Sharyn Alfonsi presented a far-ranging report for “60 Minutes” Sunday evening critical of Florida’s vaccine rollout. Among other allegations, Alfonsi said DeSantis gave a contract to distribute coronavirus vaccines to the grocery store chain Publix after Publix made a $100,000 donation to his political action committee.

DeSantis declined a request for an interview, Alfonsi said, but she caught up with him at an event south of Orlando. 

“Publix, as you know, donated $100,000 to your campaign and then you rewarded them with the exclusive rights to distribute the vaccine in Palm Beach,” Alfonsi told the governor. 

“So first of all what you’re saying is wrong,” DeSantis replied. “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.'”

Alfonsi pressed DeSantis, saying his critics say the inequitable vaccine distribution and awarding of the contract to the grocery store to distribute the vaccine amount to a “pay for play” scheme. 

“It’s wrong, it’s a fake narrative,” DeSantis said. “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.” 

Alfonsi attempted to chime in again, but DeSantis shouted over her: “No, no, no, you’re wrong, you’re wrong, you’re wrong.” 

Publix told “60 Minutes” there is no connection between the supermarket chain’s campaign contributions and its partnership with the state to administer the vaccine.

State Rep. Omari Hardy (D) told “60 Minutes” DeSantis’s decision to privatize the vaccine rollout has not worked for people of color in the state. 

She pointed to one low-income community without a Publix, meaning its residents, including elderly residents, would need to travel almost 30 miles to get a vaccine.

“Before, I could call the public health director. She would answer my calls. But now if I want to get my constituents information about how to get this vaccine, I have to call a lobbyist from Publix? That makes no sense,” Hardy said. “They’re not accountable to the public.” 

The accusations regarding Publix come as DeSantis is already under fire for Florida’s vaccine rollout. He’s been accused of funneling vaccine doses to wealthy, white communities and steering pop-up vaccine sites to communities associated with political donors.

Tags COVID-19 vaccine Florida Ron DeSantis Ron DeSantis Sharyn Alfonsi

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