If you're new to the raging 60 Minutes controversy, go back and read these two pieces and get caught up. In my post yesterday, I added CBS News' statement as an update, but I want to feature it here because it deserves prominent scrutiny. Rather than admit error -- active malpractice is more like it -- 60 Minutes initially doubled down, claiming that their misleading edits were made for "clarity." I've dismantled that claim twice over, but those edits are only a small slice of the broader problem. The far bigger issue is that 60 Minutes' team was explicitly warned, on the record, by two Florida Democrats with firsthand knowledge of the situation that their "DeSantis pay-for-play corruption" angle was totally and completely without merit. The journalists actively ignored these warnings, plowing forward with a narrative that even members of the governor's opposition party had told them was false. And because both Democrats, to their immense credit, have spoken out publicly about the journalistic corruption they personally witnessed, 60 Minutes felt compelled to issue another statement, which is even worse:
Oh man. @60Minutes tripling down on this malpractice.— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) April 6, 2021
The people of color/vaccine narrative has been repeatedly disputed, in detail, by Moskowitz (D), who also spoke out forcefully against this CBS report’s framing of the Publix non-scandal, calling it “malarkey”... pic.twitter.com/c9RsgGgtP5
In my Twitter thread in response to this, I noted a few points, upon which I'll elaborate: (1) The very first line, suggesting that wealthy white people got vaccine priority over people of color at the behest of the governor, is false. Florida correctly prioritized seniors for vaccines, who skew whiter in Florida. This was a science-driven decision, not a race-driven one. And allegations that affluent white GOP communities got special treatment from DeSantis has been actively disputed by not only the governor's office, but by the Democratic Biden endorser in charge of Florida's emergency response. In this thorough piece detailing the many ways in which the state worked to get vaccines into under-served and minority communities, Jared Moskowitz flat-out rejected the vaccine favoritism storyline that had bubbled up weeks ago, long before 60 Minutes showed up to pursue it, regardless of the facts. He contemptuously attacked the "narrative that many wanted to tell," a barb directed at the media and many within his own party, whose previous conspiracy theories about Florida's COVID data he'd previously debunked.
The CBS statement knocks DeSantis for declining a sit-down interview (this decision appears vindicated by correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi's conduct at the press conference and her team's egregious final product hit job, based on a pre-determined conclusion), then pushes back against the two Democratic officials in question. We did speak to both of them, CBS says, but it's "untrue" that we "ignored their perspective." The statement also appears to accuse Palm Beach Mayor David Kerner of lying about being interviewed. All of this is totally bizarre. Kerner never denied that he was interviewed. His blistering press release on Monday stated what he'd "discussed" with CBS, adding that the network "had [the relevant] information" and "left it out because it kneecaps their narrative." Appearing on Fox the next day, Kerner mentioned that he'd spoken with 60 Minutes producers for the better part of an hour. He never denied that the interview happened, as CBS suggests; he said that they ignored what he told them, which is obviously true. Moskowitz is also very displeased with the way 60 Minutes characterized their interactions with him:
I did speak with @60Minutes. Never said I didn’t. They were very nice, but I told them that the @publix story was “bullshit”. Walked them through the whole process.The fact that I didn’t sit down on “camera” because I am responding to a 100 year emergency doesn’t change the truth https://t.co/G7QNsV42V5— Jared MASKowitz ?? (@JaredEMoskowitz) April 6, 2021
On Sunday, Moskowitz tweeted at 60 Minutes, "I said this before and I’ll say it again. @Publix was recommended by @FLSERT and @HealthyFla as the other pharmacies were not ready to start. Period! Full Stop! No one from the Governors office suggested Publix. It’s just absolute malarkey." That was a follow-up to the same point he'd made while dispelling this fake scandal first reared its head in early March: "This idea why @Publix was picked has been utter nonsense. We reached out to all pharmacies and they were the only one who at the time could execute on the mission." We know know that Moskowitz had explained all of this, specifically, to the team at 60 Minutes. He didn't have the time to sit down for an on-camera interview with CBS ("I am responding to a 100 year emergency"), but he briefed them on all the facts, explaining exactly why the narrative they were chasing was "bullshit." And just as they did with Kerner, they listened to him, then ignored his information. Not speaking with officials who were directly involved in the relevant decisions would have been terrible, lazy, sloppy journalism. But in this case, CBS actually did speak with said officials. They made a deliberate choice to refuse to air what they'd learned, instead moving forward with a storyline that DeSantis, Moskowitz and Kerner had all explicitly explained was absolutely false. That's a full-blown journalistic scandal. I'll leave you with this point, which immediately occurred to me, too:
If DeSantis were considering legal action, he has to be pretty pleased that 60 Minutes just admitted that their half-baked conspiracy theory about him had been repeatedly debunked by experts before they aired it to millions, and that they refused to include those debunkings. https://t.co/sBfG5O23bH— Mollie (@MZHemingway) April 6, 2021
In order to win a defamation lawsuit, public figures face a very high burden of proof: Actual malice. The allegations from Moskowitz and Kerner come close to meeting that standard, in view. But 60 Minutes appears to have affirmed those officials' version of events. 60 Minutes has not only provably disgraced itself in this episode, they might be in legal jeopardy, as well.