Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay is speaking out after a “60 Minutes” segment Sunday seemingly misrepresented her comments regarding vaccine distribution in her county.
In January, Gov. Ron DeSantis turned over much of that operation to Publix. The “60 Minutes” segment analyzed that decision, implying the Governor was involved in a pay-to-play scheme following a donation from Publix.
Multiple officials — including the Democratic Palm Beach County Mayor — have pushed back against that framing. McKinlay is standing by her concerns raised at the time, but emphasized Monday that her problem with the plan related to issues surrounding rural access to the vaccines — not a purported pay-to-play arrangement.
“I’ve lived in Florida long enough to know Publix is an institution. I remember getting my free cookies as a child and I even worked there as a teenager. They are a fabulous partner and I never objected to them playing a role in my county,” McKinlay said Monday.
“I had one point — the complete failure by the Governor to recognize that a decision to strictly utilize Publix would have a detrimental impact on Florida’s rural communities. These rural communities are my constituents. I advocate fiercely for them. Palm Beach County is not all mansions and beachfront. My district encompasses 70% of the land mass in this county and most of that is rural, agricultural communities. A decision to provide vaccines to Publix meant my constituents had a nearly 30-mile commute in one direction to reach a Publix and a 78-mile commute in the other.”
But Sunday’s “60 Minutes” report used McKinlay’s concerns to back up insinuations the Governor may have granted Publix exclusive access as a political favor.
While narrating the package, CBS’ Sharyn Alfonsi referenced comments from McKinlay, saying she told CBS that “the Governor never met with her about the Publix deal.” Immediately after citing McKinlay’s comments, the segment cut to Alfonsi questioning DeSantis, saying, “The criticism here is that is pay for play, Governor.”
McKinlay, however, clarified Monday she made no such claim. “I’m not getting into [the] pay to play argument,” McKinlay added on Twitter. “That wasn’t my concern.”
McKinlay added that she supported involving Publix in the distribution plan, but she simply wanted the state to ensure rural residents had easily accessible vaccination sites as well. Two weeks later, the state complied.
McKinlay did have issues with the Governor’s comments elsewhere in the package, however. Under questioning from Alfonsi, DeSantis said he met with leading Palm Beach County officials before his original decision regarding Publix.
“I met with the County Mayor, I met with the administrator, I met with all the folks at Palm Beach County,” DeSantis said.
That’s not true, according to McKinlay. In late January, the Governor held a private meeting with the County Mayor and a few county staff members, she said. “I did not know about this meeting.”