‘Callous, cruel and compassionless’: Charlie Crist blasts Ron DeSantis for ‘pay for play’ Publix partnership

ron deSantis
60 Minutes will air a testy exchange between the Governor and a reporter about vaccine favoritism.

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.

Florida Politics Reporter Jason Delgado contributed to this report.

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected].


  • Kime Mond

    April 4, 2021 at 10:26 pm

    Typical hit job by 60 Minutes. You know that uber conservative organization. I actually think most reasonable people on both sides are tired of this contrived, edited horsecrap

    • Lt. Smith

      April 4, 2021 at 11:34 pm

      …and yet you are a paid con-artist that should be in jail.

    • AlkeneThiol

      April 4, 2021 at 11:35 pm

      Are you having a stroke?

      I’m not sure if you are trying to be satiristic or engaging in a weird breed of partisan political rhetoric.

      DeSantis either favored Publix over other pharmacies after a large donation to a friendly superPAC or he didn’t. It could have been coincidence. We don’t know yet.

      I will say that Publix being a florida-based company makes me actually somewhat okay with this sort of favoritism to a degree, as long as vaccine distribution was not negatively impacted on its way to other big chains that are in the region like CVS or Walgreens.

    • Edward Warren

      April 5, 2021 at 1:52 am

      There are COVID vaccinations sites all over Palm Beach County. Walmart, Winn-Dixie, CVS, Walgreens, etc. besides Publix. This is a despicable lie and beyond stupid. Did get money from all of them? The lazy reporter didn’t even bother to check where you can get vaccinated.

      https://discover.pbcgov.org/coronavirus/Pages/default.aspx (click on vaccination sites to see a list)

      • JonScott

        April 5, 2021 at 9:59 am

        In January, DeSantis announced an exclusive arrangement with Publix where they would be the only source of the vaccine in Palm Beach County. This was a month after the political donation he received, which looks a lot like pay for play.

        There was a big outcry that they had exclusive rights and the County Commissioner then said they were changing the Governor’s plan to have vaccines available through other, non-Publix locations.

    • ChrisP

      April 5, 2021 at 7:52 am

      DeSantis must be destroyed BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY, because the left knows he will be President on January 20, 2025.

      The Biden Family has been doing scummy deals for almost 50 years, but nothing to see there. Stalinist Left, THIS is why we hate you.

      • Donna Drumpf

        April 5, 2021 at 8:42 am

        He’ll be President on 1/20/25? LOL. Is that like Donnie Drumpf being president on 3/04/21 or 3/20/21. DeSantis has ZERO chance on being President….but send him some money like you do to Donnie….because we all know Donnie isn’t sharing.

  • Jennifer stevens

    April 5, 2021 at 12:05 am

    Hit job – he is a republican. The left is a disaster.

  • Edward Warren

    April 5, 2021 at 1:53 am

    There are COVID vaccinations sites all over Palm Beach County. Walmart, Winn-Dixie, CVS, Walgreens, etc. besides Publix. This is a despicable lie and beyond stupid. Did get money from all of them? The lazy reporter didn’t even bother to check where you can get vaccinated.

    https://discover.pbcgov.org/coronavirus/Pages/default.aspx (click on vaccination sites to see a list)

  • David C Sutherland

    April 5, 2021 at 3:09 am

    I’ll bet he really didn’t say “we can doo.” lol Nobody edits anymore?

  • W Weinkle

    April 5, 2021 at 6:48 am

    Charlie Crist? He’s not a person I’d look to for honesty and forthrightness.
    DeSantis has done well by the citizens of Florida. Got my first vaccination a few weeks ago, I get the next one in 2 weeks. The system set up by the state works fine.

    • Ken Lawson

      April 5, 2021 at 11:45 am

      Charlie is my rep. Can’t stand the guy. I joined the Republican Party to vote against him when he ran against Rubio for senate.

  • Becky Jo Vandevelde

    April 5, 2021 at 7:17 am

    DeSantis is a hero in FL. DeSantis is the new target for the Left. Publix is just one of the sites. There are sites everywhere. 60 Minutes is lying as usual.

    • Lee

      April 5, 2021 at 3:16 pm

      In January Publix was given exclusive rights to distribute the vaccine at $40 a pop from Medicare (remember only over 65 year olds could get it then). Other retail stores came much later. This was quid pro quo just like Desantis did in Lakewood where a developer-friend-large contributor to Desantis was provided vaccines exclusively for the high-end residents of the Lakewood community. Do you see the pattern or are you just not trying?

  • Chino

    April 5, 2021 at 7:38 am

    That’s what Republicans do it’s the corporate party. On the other hand Publix is a class act and everything they do is great, so it was not a bad idea. $100,000 doesn’t buy a Republican nowadays… much less in Florida. Biden needs all the help he can get to undo the damage.

  • Timothy Patrick Welch

    April 5, 2021 at 7:59 am

    Publics is doing a great job with vaccinations, faster, better website, more professional then both Walgreens and Flagler County.

  • Timothy Patrick Welch

    April 5, 2021 at 8:00 am

    Publix is doing a great job with vaccinations, faster, better website, more professional then both Walgreens and Flagler County.

  • Frank Algeciras

    April 5, 2021 at 8:03 am

    I stopped wasting my time with 60 minutes, It is no longer what it once was just another tool of the left. Unfair and partial.

    • john T Morzenti

      April 5, 2021 at 8:51 am

      60 Minutes? Are those a-holes still on the air? They’re the very definition if utterly fabricated, grossly distorted reporting, far behind even the National Enquirer.

  • drdrmrmd

    April 5, 2021 at 9:55 am

    Typical hit job by the left. Never watch 60 minutes anymore for this reason. Never objective anymore.

  • AJ

    April 5, 2021 at 10:21 am

    I’m not from Florida. I’m not a Republican.
    I’ve been working to get a vaccine in my state for a week now. No dice. I could if I wanted to drive about 2 hours.
    Using the same process I use here, but using Palm Beach Co. zip codes, I found 3 available appointments in seconds. Found 8 within minutes. At Walmarts, CVS’, Walgreens and what appears to be an independent or small chain pharmacy. I didn’t bother looking at Publix.

    If this is pay for play and corruption, count me in. I want my shot/s.

  • trump lost

    April 5, 2021 at 10:28 am

    Florida is 40th in the country for percentage of population fully vaccinated.

    Publix may or may not have made a deal with DeSantis. It doesn’t really matter seeing that the governor definitely is failing at his job.

    • zhombre

      April 6, 2021 at 10:24 am

      Bullsh-t. He is doing a better job than that opiate-sucking Gillum would’ve done. And any sane person knows it.

  • Typee McTypo

    April 5, 2021 at 10:30 am

    How about them typos? Fo sho I know this writer loves writing…

  • Nunya Bidness

    April 5, 2021 at 10:58 am

    Publix attracts more Floridians to its stores than any other retail outlet, by far. It’s also Florida based. What other criteria should matter?

  • Navs

    April 5, 2021 at 11:34 am

    OMG. Our country is so divided between Republicans and Democrats that we have stopped seeing right and wrong. My party is always right is the motto. Country? I am not sure if I want to think about it.

  • Valerie MacDowell

    April 5, 2021 at 1:56 pm

    The biggest issue I have with this article is that Publix is not only administering vaccines in Florida, but they are also administering them in Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. I doubt very seriously that DeSantis had anything to do with that.

  • Simon Williamson

    April 5, 2021 at 1:58 pm

    Publix won the vaccination due to several factors. Most don’t know that Publix has given the most top flu vaccines for several years here in Florida, plus they have an incredible distribution network already built in. Basically they know how to get things done. Walgreens and CVS had public debacles with the vaccine early on making it a very easy choice as to who the state and people trusted to get the vaccine out quickly. A few $ may have made the choice easier as well…..

  • Jerry Redmond

    April 5, 2021 at 7:27 pm


  • David Allen

    April 5, 2021 at 8:40 pm

    Why no mention of the $140k Public donated to Florida Democrats? Also, Publix is not only place to get vaccine.

  • martin

    April 6, 2021 at 3:32 pm

    Publix has had the systems in place for years. Have you ever been to a Publix that was as poorly mismanaged, and unkempt as a CVS, Walgreens, Winn-Dixie, or WallMart?

    I haven’t and I guarantee no one else has either. Publix makes political contributions to both parties. That argument is a red-herring.
    As for Crist, he is just like an aged out actor or actress. This is his last ditch attempt to appear relevant. What else can we expect from a career politician?

Comments are closed.


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