I was hot on this story about scandalous journalistic malpractice last week, so I wanted to be sure to share its conclusion. After issuing escalating and embarrassing written statements about their horrendous reporting on Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and a nonexistent vaccine distribution "scandal," 60 Minutes addressed the controversy on air. Anyone holding out hope for any semblance of a retraction, apology, or even a basic acknowledgment of the massive factual problems with the previous week's segment was bound to be disappointed. And so they were. Just pathetic:
Sunday’s @60Minutes ended with @Sharyn_Alfonsi reading comments about her shoddy hit piece on @RonDeSantisFL. She didn’t acknowledge doing anything wrong. “Some viewers, including a retired newsman, applauded the story.” #60Minutes pic.twitter.com/v5qEwT5PXc— Brent Baker (@BrentHBaker) April 12, 2021
Message: On one hand, some people -- including "a retired newsman" liked the story. On the other, some people did not. Who's to say what the facts truly are in this unsolvable squabble? We're moving on. This is exactly the sort of thing Rush Limbaugh had in mind when he coined the "drive-by media" term. The problem, of course, is that 60 Minutes glommed onto a debunked 'scandal' that had been discredited and refuted in Florida weeks before it was shoehorned onto CBS' national air. The journalists admit that they spoke at length with the Democratic officials who were personally involved in the "controversial" Publix decision, and those officials have backed the governor's accurate account. CBS edited out most of the substance of DeSantis' detailed rebuttal to correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi's lazy and unsupported "pay to play" allegation, and totally ignored the preemptive warnings and fact-checks from Democrats with direct knowledge of what happened. Fox's in-house media analyst called the whole epsidode, including the absurd follow up 'mail bag' segment an "utter fiasco" for 60 Minutes:
Howie said he thinks it would still be an uphill climb to prove 'actual malice' and win a defamation lawsuit against 60 Minutes, which may or may not be true. Here's another way of looking at it: If a prosecutor knowingly withholds exculpatory evidence that could help exonerate a defendant -- denying that information to the defendant's attorneys during discovery, and keeping it from the jury -- that would be textbook prosecutorial misconduct. The offender could be subject to disciplinary action, fired, or even disbarred. 60 Minutes is guilty of the journalistic equivalent of that treacherous, system-undermining act. National Review's Charles Cooke, a Florida resident, righteously laid into Alfonsi and team:
Acknowledging the incident at the end of last night’s 60 Minutes, host Sharyn Alfonsi steered clear of such prosaic questions as whether what she had said was true or false, and chose instead to deploy an impressively pusillanimous version of the “we started a conversation” defense. “Some viewers,” Alfonsi explained, “including a retired newsman, applauded the story” she had told. Others, she said, “condemned it.” And then, without further ado, ran the titles...Despite its implications to the contrary, CBS was not admonished last week because it said something controversial, it was not admonished because it stood up to power, and it was not admonished because it waded into the middle of a thorny partisan debate. It was admonished because it knowingly broadcast the lie that Governor DeSantis had used Publix to help distribute COVID-19 vaccines because of a wheel-greasing campaign donation, and because it had deliberately omitted an interview clip in which DeSantis not only explained why Publix played the role that it did, but made clear that stores other than Publix got the vaccine first.
...That CBS has refused to admit its mistake does not suggest that there must be something to its critique so much as it suggests that there are no incentives for it to concede error. Or, to put it more precisely: It suggests that the incentives that led CBS to broadcast such an obvious falsehood in the first instance remain operative. Why did CBS go down to Florida, spend three months searching for a scandal, and then desperately attach itself to a fable that it would have known within hours did not check out? I’ll tell you why: because CBS began with the premise and worked backwards from there...The ugly truth here is that CBS feels no need to apologize or self-correct because CBS knows that it has the mob on its side.