Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) on Tuesday slammed the "smear merchants" in "corporate media," vowing to "punch back" against lies told about his leadership in COVID-19 vaccination distribution.
While speaking in Panama City, DeSantis was asked by a reporter about CBS News' "60 Minutes," which aired a deceptively edited clip of the governor over the weekend as part of a story about allegations of corruption. "60 Minutes" suggested that DeSantis engaged in a "pay to play" scheme with Publix grocery stores, purportedly accepting $100,000 in campaign donations from the company in exchange for granting Publix pharmacies priority access to distribute COVID-19 vaccines.
The allegations in the "60 Minutes" story were fiercely denied by Publix, the Florida director of emergency management, who is a Democrat, and also the Democratic mayor of Palm Beach County, who said the report was "intentionally false."
In the clip, "60 Minutes" reporter Sharyn Alfonsi asked DeSantis about the donation from Publix and characterized it as pay to play, which the governor also denied. He explained in a lengthy response that CVS, Walgreens, and other businesses were also enlisted to distribute vaccines and that the state partnered with Publix after consulting with local officials and deciding the grocery store chain was best suited to meet the needs of Florida seniors. But when "60 Minutes" aired over the weekend, most of DeSantis' answer was left on the cutting room floor.
"They cut out everything that showed that their narrative was a piece of horse manure," DeSantis said Tuesday. "And it shows you how dishonest — these are smear merchants. That's why nobody trusts corporate media. They are a disaster in what they're doing."
CBS News said that the governor's answer was edited for "clarity."
"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," a spokesman for CBS said in a statement to Axios Tuesday.
But the effect of CBS News' edits was not to clarify, but rather obscure DeSantis' rationale for having the state partner with Publix to distribute COVID-19 vaccines.
"They knew what they were doing was a lie. I knew what they were doing was a lie," said DeSantis. "Everybody here knows what they were doing was a lie. They know that we know they're lying, and yet they continue to lie. And they lied, and they lied, and they lied."