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'Utter Nonsense': Florida Democrats Defend Gov. Ron DeSantis After '60 Minutes' Airs Edited Response to Question

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks the media at a coronavirus vaccination site at Lakewood Ranch Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, in Bradenton, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Some top Florida Democrats are calling the recent CBS "60 Minutes" story on Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis "malarkey" and "intentionally false."   

"60 Minutes" alleged in their report Sunday that DeSantis chose Publix supermarket pharmacies for the state's rollout of vaccine distribution because of the company's previous contributions to his campaign. The story also alleged that the rollout was slower to minority communities in Palm Beach County because a Publix supermarket was not located nearby. The state addressed that concern by setting up drive-through vaccine sites in those areas, as it had done in other parts of Florida.

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According to The Daily Caller, Democrat Jared Moskowitz, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, called the theory of a "pay to play" deal by DeSantis "utter nonsense," saying the suggestion to choose Publix came from his office. 

"We reached out to all pharmacies and they were the only one who at the time could execute on the mission. The federal government delayed the federal pharmacy program and we yet again stepped up first to serve more seniors," Moskowitz tweeted.

In a later tweet, Moskowitz reiterated his previous tweet, writing that Publix "was recommended by" the Florida Division of Emergency Management and the Florida Department of Health because "the other pharmacies were not ready to start."

"Period! Full stop! No one from the Governor's office suggested Publix. It's just absolute malarkey," according to Moskowitz.

Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner, a Democrat, also pushed back on the "60 Minutes" report in a statement Monday afternoon. He accused the CBS story of being "intentionally false" and accused the show of denying his offers of "insight" into the vaccination efforts.

"They know that the Governor came to Palm Beach County and met with me and the County Administrator and we asked to expand the state's partnership with Publix to Palm Beach County," Kerner wrote in the statement. "We also discussed our own local plans to expand mass vaccination centers throughout the county, which the Governor has been incredibly supportive. We asked and he delivered. They had that information, and they left it out because it kneecaps their narrative."

'60 Minutes' continues to be hit by both parties for leaving out the key context for decisions made by DeSantis. CBS correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi confronted DeSantis in a press conference about "pay to play" accusations with Publix.  DeSantis vehemently denied the allegation and fully explained how Publix was chosen to distribute the vaccines. 

But when the "60 Minutes" story aired, much of that context was edited out. Instead, The Daily Caller pointed out due to the editing of the video, the "60 Minutes" report went from the governor saying that the story was "a fake narrative" to his claims on who he spoke with in figuring out Florida's best options. 

Here's what the report left out of DeSantis's answer:

"So, first of all, when we did – the first pharmacies that had it were CVS and Walgreens, and they had a long-term care mission. So they were going to the long-term care facilities. They got the vaccine in the middle of December, they started going to the long-term care facilities the third week of December to do LTCs. So that was their mission. That was very important. And we trusted them to do that. As we got into January, we wanted to expand the distribution points. So, yes, you had the counties, you had some drive-through sites, you had hospitals that were doing a lot, but we wanted to get it into communities more. So we reached out to other retail pharmacies — Publix, Walmart — obviously CVS and Walgreens had to finish that mission. And we said, 'we're going to use you as soon as you're done with that.' For the Publix, they were the first one to raise their hand, say they were ready to go. And you know what, we did it on a trial basis. I had three counties. I actually showed up that weekend and talked to seniors across four different Publix. 'How was the experience? Is this good? Should you think this is a way to go?' And it was 100% positive. So we expanded it, and then folks liked it. And I can tell you, if you look at a place like Palm Beach County, they were kind of struggling at first in terms of the senior numbers."

In a statement to The Daily Caller on Monday, "60 Minutes" said it edited DeSantis' statement "for clarity." And that DeSantis and Florida Emergency Management Director Moskowitz declined on-camera interviews.

Moscowitz tweeted that he did communicate with "60 Minutes," just not in a sit-down interview, Fox News reported.

"I did speak with @60Minutes. Never said I didn't," Moskowitz began. "They were very nice, but I told them that the @publix story was 'bulls---'. Walked them through the whole process." He added, "The fact that I didn't sit down on 'camera' because I am responding to a 100 year emergency doesn't change the truth," he added.

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