Governor DeSantis blasts '60 Minutes' report about Publix and COVID-19 vaccines

Governor Ron DeSantis is firing back after a ‘60 Minutes’ report accused him of giving Publix some type of deal to offer the COVID-19 vaccine based on its donation to his re-election campaign.

"Every single fact that I discussed was edited out," the governor complained in a Wednesday press conference specifically to respond to the report. "The fact that Publix wasn't even the first pharmacy to get it; CVS and Walgreens had had it.  The fact that we had obviously had it in hospitals and other places.  The fact that Publix was selected because they were the first pharmacy to raise their hand, that was taken out."

In the story, 60 Minutes reporter Sharyn Alfonsi drew connections between a $100,000 donation made by Lakeland-based Publix to DeSantis’ political committee and the governor’s decision to partner with the supermarket chain in vaccinating residents. But the governor has denied that.

Some Democrats have come to his defense, including the Democratic director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management and the Democratic mayor of Palm Beach County. Both have said the partnership with Publix was not suggested by the governor nor anyone in his office.

"The decision to use Publix was made in my office in the (state Emergency Operations Center)," Jared Moskowitz said, adding the recommendation was developed with "10 people in the room."

Moskowitz also said he reached out to Walmart before approaching Publix and reiterated previous statements that he spoke with 60 Minutes off-camera before the piece aired to debunk the "Publix narrative."

"I told them that this Publix narrative was malarkey, and they still went with it," Moskowitz said.

The governor says his office gave 60 Minutes information about all of the different vaccine sites in the state but they did not include that in the piece.

"They knew what they were trying to do; the facts did not matter and they were hell-bent on trying to launch a smear piece against me and the state of Florida.  And against one of our most respected companies and brands, Publix," DeSantis continued.

Publix called the notion that it received special access "absolutely false and offensive."

Commissioners' texts show political favoritism in choosing Manatee County vaccine site

Text messages obtained by a Manatee County man show the commission chairperson helped plan a pop-up vaccine site based, at least in part, on what would "be huge" for Governor DeSantis' reelection campaign.

60 Minutes says it stands by its report, releasing a statement saying, "We requested and conducted interviews with dozens of sources and authorities involved.  We requested an interview with governor DeSantis; 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. The idea we ignored their perspective is untrue."

Information from the News Service of Florida was used in this report.