'These are smear merchants': Gov. Ron DeSantis rebukes '60 Minutes' report criticizing COVID-19 vaccine rollout

'They knew what they were doing was a lie," DeSantis says
Posted at 10:16 AM, Apr 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-06 17:19:08-04

PANAMA CITY, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis blasted a "60 Minutes" story that aired Sunday that was critical of his handling of the vaccine rollout in Florida.

The governor made the remarks during a news conference Tuesday morning in Panama City.

DeSantis called the story "a piece of horse manure" and "dishonest."

"60 Minutes" questioned why Publix was given the opportunity to vaccinate parts of the state while areas such as western Palm Beach County struggle to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

The governor said Tuesday that "60 Minutes" declined to interview key people for their story.

Gov. Ron DeSantis holds news conference in Panama City

"These are smear merchants. That's why nobody trusts corporate media. They are a disaster in what they are doing," DeSantis said. "They knew what they were doing was a lie."

The governor also had tough words for the national media, saying he's "punching back" at critics.

He reiterated that Florida took the right direction to vaccinate seniors first and said the state was the first in the country to take that stance.

"You can't lie, and ["60 Minutes"] should not have run [the story]," DeSantis said. "They were warned, and yet they plowed ahead anyway."

He said it would have been "malpractice" to cut out Publix from helping in the vaccine distribution.

The governor hinted that his squabble with "60 Minutes" wasn't over yet, saying he was going to be doing more "to expose" what he called the story's "lies."

"Unless you are partisan leftist, do not trust corporate media," DeSantis said. "This is not over by any stretch of the imagination."

A spokesperson for "60 Minutes" defended the story Tuesday by releasing the following statement:

“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. 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. Our story Sunday night speaks for itself. “

DeSantis was in Panama City to speak about economic relief to help rebuild the area after Hurricane Michael, including an estimated $22 million more in assistance.

The Category 5 storm devastated the Panhandle in October 2018.