The Poynter Institute for Media Studies has joined the growing chorus of criticism against the controversial “60 Minutes” report that suggested Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, R., engaged in a pay-for-play scheme with Publix over distributing coronavirus vaccines.
“There was really no there there,” Poynter’s senior media writer Tom Jones wrote.
“’60 Minutes’ is the finest and most respected investigative journalism show in the history of television … that doesn’t mean it’s infallible,” Jones wrote. “And a sloppy moment on Sunday’s show is raising serious concerns.”
The report by Sharyn Alfonsi and produced by Oriana Zill de Granados suggested DeSantis gave Publix preferential treatment to distribute COVID-19 vaccines because the chain donated $100,000 to the governor’s political action committee.
“If that is true — if DeSantis ran a ‘pay-for-play’ scheme involving vaccinations for the coronavirus — that’s an explosive story. But ‘60 Minutes’ really didn’t deliver substantial evidence that DeSantis did any such thing,” Jones wrote.
“Yes, Publix donated to DeSantis’ reelection campaign. But that is neither illegal nor unusual. Big companies often donate to political campaigns of both major parties,” Jones continued. “Yet the ‘60 Minutes’ piece used that as the main evidence for its premise that DeSantis did something shady. They really didn’t have much else on that topic.”
Democratic state officials, conservative pundits, Publix, DeSantis himself and now liberal media watchdogs have all rejected the story.
“There’s nothing wrong with a news network digging into how vaccines are distributed. And political contributions are a good place to poke around on such a story. But, in this case, it doesn’t appear as if DeSantis did anything wrong,” Jones wrote. “If he did, ‘60 Minutes’ failed to provide enough information, context or evidence that he did … This doesn’t ruin the ‘60 Minutes’ brand, but this was not one of the show’s finer moments.”
Despite the widespread backlash, CBS News has defended its reporting.
“When Florida state data revealed people of color were vaccinated at a much lower rate than their wealthier neighbors, ‘60 Minutes’ reported the facts surrounding the vaccine’s rollout, which is controlled by the governor. We requested and conducted interviews with dozens of sources and authorities involved. We requested an interview with Gov. Ron DeSantis, he declined; we spoke to State Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz twice, but he declined to be interviewed on camera for our story until well after our deadline. The idea we ignored their perspective is untrue,” a CBS News spokesperson said in a statement to Fox News.
CBS also pushed back against Palm Beach County Mayor David Kerner, a Democrat who said the piece was “intentionally false.”
“Counter to his statement yesterday, we also spoke on the record with Palm Beach County Mayor David Kerner. For over 50 years, the facts reported by 60 MINUTES have often stirred debate and prompted strong reactions,” the CBS News spokesperson continued. “Our story Sunday night speaks for itself.”
When asked why a defense of pay-for-play allegations from the “60 Minutes” report wasn’t in the statement, a CBS News spokesperson told Fox News the newsmagazine repeated claims already made in Florida newspapers and declined additional comment.
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