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Lawmakers react to national profile on alleged disparities in Florida’s vaccine rollout plan

60 Minutes profiled how the wealthy appeared to receive vaccine priority
Desantis and Rivkees
Posted at 10:56 AM, Apr 06, 2021

On Sunday, CBS’s 60 Minutes aired a piece that took aim at Florida’s vaccine rollout plan.

“There’s a lot of blame to go around at this point in the state of Florida, some of it I think the legislature deserves, some of it I think our statewide officials deserve,” said Democratic Representative Evan Jenne of Broward County. Jenne is also a co-House minority leader this session.

Jenne said he didn’t see the full episode, which compared the state’s rollout plan to “The Hunger Games,” but he said he’s seen enough living and working in Florida as the state started distributing vaccines.

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“I’m still hopeful that there will be some sort of significant review of everything that happened the last 12 or 13 months,” Jenne said on Monday during a zoom roundtable with reporters.

The piece, which didn’t reveal any new information from what local and state media (including our station) have been reporting on for months, questioned the Governor’s political connection to Publix, which donated $100,000 to Governor DeSantis’ campaign a few weeks before the Governor announced the grocer would be helping the state distribute vaccines. The report also raised suspicion over the state’s entire vaccine distribution plan, which has been criticized for favoring the rich.

Previous Vaccine Rollout Coverage

Examples in the piece included how the wealthy town of Palm Beach was granted among the earliest doses of the vaccine and Manatee County’s Lakewood Ranch, where two wealthier zip codes were given vaccine priority through one of the state’s pop-up vaccination clinics. The exclusive access to the predominantly Republican community ignited a defensive and threatening Governor Ron DeSantis when he was asked questions about it by local and state media.

The 60 Minutes piece prompted its share of political punches by Florida politicos.

Democrat Nikki Fried, Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner, said to be making a run for Governor next year tweeted the piece was “exposing the nation to DeSantis’ failings and corruption…”

U.S. Senator Charlie Crist also said to be eyeing a bid for Governor called the episode “explosive” and its findings, “appalling.”

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But supporters of DeSantis were quick to set the record straight too.

The Vice-Chairman of Florida’s GOP tweeted it was a hit piece while outgoing Division of Emergency Management Director, Jared Moskowitz, a Democrat, defended the state’s decision to use Publix as its first distributor. In a tweet Sunday night, Moskowitz said it was his agency and Florida’s health department who recommended the Governor give the green light to the Lakeland-based grocer, not the Governor’s office and any impression of political favoritism was, “absolute malarkey,” Moskowitz tweeted.

On Tuesday, Governor DeSantis aggressively pushed back at the 60 Minutes piece stating on Fox & Friends, “all they were looking to do was a hit job on me, to try to smear me just because I’m in the other party then them. They lie and they lie and they lie,” DeSantis said.

During a press conference in Panama City on Tuesday, the Governor called the story “a piece of horse manure” and “dishonest,” adding he would be “punching back” at critics.

Publix has and continues to deny any political ‘pay to play’ allegation stating, “the irresponsible suggestion that there was a connection between campaign contributions made to Governor DeSantis and our willingness to join other pharmacies in support of the state’s vaccine distribution efforts is absolutely false and offensive.”

Florida continues to hold vaccination clinics in minority and underserved communities around the state.