U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist is hitting back against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis after a 60 Minutes report highlighting the Governor’s decision to offer vaccines in wealthy neighborhoods and in Publix supermarkets across the state.
“Tonight’s report on 60 Minutes on Governor Ron DeSantis’s failure to put the people of Florida first in the vaccine rollout is appalling. In Gov. DeSantis’s Florida, money and power rule and everyone else is at the back of the line,” Crist wrote in a statement. “This callous, cruel, and compassionless policy makes ‘Hunger Games’ an apt metaphor. Floridians deserve better.”
The 60 Minutes report features a back and forth between DeSantis and 60 Minutes reporter Sharyn Alfonsi in which she asks him about a $100,000 contribution to his campaign from the Lakeland-based grocer, which she said the Governor then “rewarded” them with exclusive rights to distribute the vaccine in Palm Beach County.
DeSantis immediately pushed back against the loaded question.
‘First of all, what you’re saying is wrong,” he interrupted.
Alfonsi then interjected, asking DeSantis, “How is that not pay for play?”
“That’s a fake narrative,” DeSantis answered. “I met with the county Mayor, I met with the administrator, I met with al the folks at 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 doo the Publix,’ and they said, ‘we think that would be the easiest thing fo our residents.’”
The clip of the interview then pivots to Alfonsi’s narration, saying Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay said DeSantis had never met with her about the Publix plan.
The excerpt of the interview ends with DeSantis admonishing Alfonsi for not taking his narrative at face value, and Alfonsi pointing out that the nearest Publix was “30-miles away.” DeSantis retorted that she was wrong. The clip ends with Alfonsi saying, “that’s actually a fact.”
Conservative writer A.G. Hamilton tweeted the exchange had been heavily edited, omitting a portion of the exchange in which DeSantis further explained the decision to partner with Publix in full.
The omission drew a swift response from outgoing Department of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz.
Moskowitz, a former Democratic lawmaker, described the pay-for-play notion as “absolute malarkey.”
“I said this before and I’ll say it again,” Moskowitz tweeted to 60 Minutes. “Publix was recommended by (The State Emergency Response Team) and [Florida Department of Health] as the other pharmacies were not ready to start. Period! Full stop! No one from the Governor’s Office suggested Publix.”
Late Monday, DeSantis appeared on Fox News where he described the 60 Minutes story as a “smear” driven by “malicious intent.”
Speaking to Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, DeSantis said 60 Minutes avoided talking to “key Democrats” such as the Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner and Moskowitz.
He alleged they would “blow up their narrative.”
“They put their head in the sand and pretended those facts didn’t exist,” DeSantis said.
The full interview aired Sunday night at 7:30 p.m. on CBS.
"What you're saying is wrong," Gov DeSantis tells Sharyn Alfonsi in response to a question about whether the Publix grocery store chain gained influence through a campaign donation on his behalf. "It's wrong. It's a fake narrative," he says. https://t.co/gyrW9hYPTg pic.twitter.com/5rBq7v5VOA
— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) April 4, 2021
Florida Politics Reporter Jason Delgado contributed to this report.