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The Other Questionable Part of That '60 Minutes' Hit Piece on DeSantis

AP Photo/Phil Sears

CBS’s “60 Minutes” was put through the wringer by Republicans and Democrats alike on Monday for pushing a false narrative that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis engaged in a pay-to-play scheme with Publix, the grocery store chain, in the vaccine rollout.

In a clip showing an exchange between reporter Sharyn Alfonsi and the governor, DeSantis’s detailed response debunking the suggestion is largely edited out. In a statement to Townhall, a CBS spokesman said it was done for "clarity" and that "60 MINUTES used the portion of the Governor's over 2-minute response that directly addressed the question from the correspondent." The narrative pushed, however, was denounced by Publix, a Democratic official, and the Democrat mayor of Palm Beach County, who said he offered to give his insight to “60 Minutes,” but they declined. He blasted the piece as “intentionally false” and accused CBS of doing it to divide Americans for “cheap views and clicks.”

The pay-to-play narrative wasn’t the only questionable part of the report, however. CBS is also facing backlash for trying to condemn DeSantis for following the data, rather than the CDC’s guidelines, about who should be prioritized for vaccines. Since the elderly are most at-risk, DeSantis prioritized them over younger frontline workers. 

"Florida's rollout started pretty typically. The first doses were given to healthcare workers and nursing home residents in early December," Alfonsi said. "But then, a few weeks later, Gov. Ron DeSantis, breaking from CDC guidelines, announced he would not vaccinate teachers and essential workers next but instead put seniors first, making anyone 65 and over eligible for the vaccine, the first in the country to do that."

"DeSantis said seniors were at highest risk," she added, as if that was DeSantis’s opinion rather than fact. 

According to CDC data, 80 percent of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have been among those 65 and older.

“The report went on to suggest DeSantis was to blame for having Florida's 4.5 million seniors 'compete against each other' to get the vaccine and for the state's Health Department phone lines ‘failing’ and websites ‘crashing,’” Fox News reports. 

The governor's office said the approach he took to vaccinating the most vulnerable residents in the state was "data driven" and proved to be highly effective. Thus far, nearly 3.5 million residents age 65 and older have gotten vaccinated. 

"As a result, cases and hospitalizations in those 65 older have drastically reduced. In the 65 and older population, the number of new cases were down by 84% the week of March 21 – March 27, as compared to the week of December 27 – January 2, and hospitalizations were down by 83%," a statement from his office says. 

DeSantis also released numerous thank-you emails from seniors who were grateful for his leadership and the ability to get the vaccine at Publix. 

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