PolitiFact acknowledged Wednesday that CBS News “could” be guilty of “deceptively editing” remarks by Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in a controversial “60 Minutes” report, but stopped short of stating it as fact.
The Sunday newsmagazine show has received intense backlash from conservatives over its report accusing DeSantis of taking part in a “pay-for-play” scheme by granting grocery store chain Publix coronavirus vaccine distribution rights after the company made a $100,000 contribution to his campaign.
In a heated exchange that aired on Sunday, DeSantis was confronted with the allegation by “60 Minutes” correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi.
“Publix, as you know, donated $100,000 to your campaign,” Alfonsi began in the clip. “And then you rewarded them with the exclusive rights to distribute the vaccination in Palm Beach –“
“First, of all what you’re saying is wrong,” DeSantis interrupted.
“How is that not pay-for-play?” Alfonsi then asked.
“That’s a fake narrative,” DeSantis replied. “I met with the county mayor, I met with the administrator, I met with all the folks at Palm Beach County and I said, ‘Here’s some of the options: We can do more drive-thru sites, we can give more to hospitals, we can do the Publix.’ And they said, ‘We think that would be the easiest thing for our residents.”
Alfonsi then narrated that Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay claimed DeSantis “never met with her about the Publix deal.”
“The criticism here is that is pay-for-play, governor,” Alfonsi told DeSantis.
“And it’s wrong, it’s wrong,” the governor shot back. “It’s a fake narrative. I just disabused you of the narrative. And you don’t care about the facts. Because, obviously, I laid it out for you in a way that is irrefutable.”
However, as first pointed out by conservative writer A.G. Hamilton, “60 Minutes” cut several minutes from the press conference, during which DeSantis explained what led to the deal with Publix.
“First of all, the first pharmacies that had [the vaccine] 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 in December to do LTCs,” DeSantis told Alfonsi. “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-thru 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,” DeSantis continued.
He went on to say Publix was the “first one to raise their hand” to say it was ready to distribute the vaccine. It rolled out the vaccine on a “trial basis” in three counties, which was met with “100% positive” feedback from seniors.
On Wednesday, PolitiFact weighed in on the question, “Did ’60 Minutes’ selectively edit video footage of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to portray the state’s coronavirus vaccine in a negative light?”
“The ’60 Minutes’ segment omits some of the background on why Florida partnered with Publix to distribute coronavirus vaccines. That omission could constitute ‘deceptive editing,’ as some social media users have claimed,” PolitiFact wrote.
The define “deceptive editing,” the liberal fact-checker borrowed from The Washington Post’s “guide to manipulated video.” According to the Post, “deceptive editing” means a clip “has been edited and rearranged”, either through omission (“‘editing out large portions from a video and presenting it as a complete narrative’ to ‘skew reality,'” as PolitiFact put it) or splicing,
“By omitting DeSantis’ remarks on why the state partnered with Publix to distribute vaccines in Palm Beach County, the ’60 Minutes’ clip could fall into the former category,” PolitiFact said.
However, as critics pointed out, PolitiFact’s ruling was far from definitive.
“Politifact couldn’t form an independent judgment about whether the 60 minutes DeSantis clip was deceptively edited or not?” conservative writer Allahpundit reacted.
A CBS spokesperson stood by the report, telling Fox News, “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.”
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