PANAMA CITY (CBSMiami) – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis held a news conference in Panama City on Tuesday to talk about long-term recovery from Hurricane Michael, but DeSantis started and ended the news conference with strong words about a 60 Minutes report which criticized the state’s alleged pay-to-play COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
“They cut out everything that showed that their narrative was a piece of horse manure,” said DeSantis. “And it shows you how dishonest, these are smear merchants, that’s why nobody trusts corporate media. They are a disaster in what they are doing. They knew what they were doing was a lie. I knew what they were doing was a lie. Everybody here knows what they were doing was a lie. They know that we know they’re lying and yet they continue to lie.”READ MORE: Stimulus Check Latest: Is A Fourth Relief Payment Coming?
The 60 Minutes story, which aired Sunday, was about Florida’s vaccine rollout and spotlighted a recent $100,000 donation that Publix Supermarket made to DeSantis’ re-election bid.
The story, by correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi, suggested there was a possible link between the donation and the state’s partnership with Publix stores for vaccine distribution, based on public finance records.
“They attacked Publix. You know it’s New York corporate media when you come to Florida and attack Publix,” said DeSantis. “I mean it’s one of the most popular brands in the state, it would have been malpractice to cut Publix out of assisting.”
WATCH: DeSantis Slams 60 Minutes Report
After the report aired, the Democratic director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management and Democratic county mayor of Palm Beach County both publicly responded, saying that partnering with Publix was not suggested by anyone from DeSantis’ office.
In a Sunday night tweet directed at “60 Minutes,” Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz wrote, “I said this before, and I’ll say it again. [Publix] was recommended by [Florida Division of Emergency Management] and [Florida Department of Public Health]. Period! Full stop!”
“No one from the Governor’s office suggested Publix,” Moskowitz added. “It’s just absolute malarkey.”
Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner offered a similar sentiment in a Monday statement.
“I watched the 60 Minutes segment on Palm Beach County last night and feel compelled to issue this statement,” Kerner said.READ MORE: Leftover From Hurricane Dorian, 58 Strays From The Bahamas Make Their Way To South Florida
Kerner accused “60 Minutes” of reporting “intentionally false” information, saying that the program knew DeSantis had met with him and that the county had been the entity to request “to expand the state’s partnership with Publix.”
Publix also issued a statement to criticize the assertion, but the supermarket chain did not mention “60 Minutes” by name.
“The irresponsible suggestion that there was a connection between campaign contributions made to Governor DeSantis and our willingness to join other pharmacies in support of the state’s vaccine distribution efforts is absolutely false and offensive,” Publix said Monday.
In a Monday afternoon statement, DeSantis’ office said, “Florida partnered with Publix because they were ready to administer the vaccine in their pharmacies in a matter of days, whereas other pharmacies were not ready.”
A spokesperson for “60 Minutes” defended the story the newsmagazine aired.
In a brief statement, the spokesperson focused specifically on criticism “60 Minutes” received for not airing a portion of an encounter DeSantis had with Alfonsi at a press conference in which he pointed out to her that CVS and Walgreens — under a federal program — were the first pharmacies in the state to distribute vaccines.
“As we always do for clarity, 60 Minutes used the portion of the Governor’s over 2-minute response that directly addressed the question from the correspondent,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson also said that the program asked for an actual interview with DeSantis twice, but that he declined.
DeSantis said Tuesday, “They lied and lied, we offered them the information and they declined to interview the key people because they didn’t want to let go of the narrative. Well guess what, there’s going to be consequences for that.”
DeSantis went on to talk about how well the state is doing with vaccinations.MORE NEWS: Fatal Tamarac Shooting Under Investigation
“The fact of the matter is, Florida has vaccinated three and a half million senior citizens, we were the first state in the country to put seniors first. The results of our efforts are that seniors are much less likely to be hospitalized for COVID than they were six months ago. So, our efforts have worked, and particularly in Palm Beach County. We’ve done over 275,000 seniors just in that one county, that’s 75% of all the seniors there, it’s been a team effort.”