Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, R., blasted "corporate media operatives" at CBS News’ "60 Minutes" on Wednesday over its widely criticized report on Florida’s coronavirus vaccine rollout and called on the show to "admit that it was false."
"They’ve issued a lot of mealy-mouthed statements since the episode aired, they knew what they were putting on the air was false," DeSantis said on "Fox & Friends."
DeSantis said CBS News producers talked to people who knew the story was false but "refused" to put them on the air.
"They know that they got caught, so they never even addressed that, they just issued these mealy-mouthed statements, but what I would say to ’60 Minutes’ and the American people, they have so much contempt for their viewers to try to gaslight them like this," DeSantis said. "You know what, admit that it was false. That’s the responsible thing to do."
The now-infamous "60 Minutes" report suggested DeSantis gave the Publix grocery store chain preferable treatment to offer the coronavirusvaccine based on its donations to his PAC, while also painting the governor as a villain who prioritized at-risk senior citizens over teachers. CBS News has maintained it did nothing wrong, but critics, including Florida Democrats, have found multiple issues with the reporting.
"These are corporate media operatives ... They had a political mission to smear me, they thought that they could do it, drive by, and just go on to the next target," DeSantis said. "But I have a platform, I have the ability to fight back. We have done that, we’re going to continue to do that."
CBS News did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Florida state officials have claimed they wanted to speak to "60 Minutes" and offer their side of the story, but the program insists they missed a deadline for an on-camera interview and information they relayed was instead used on background.
Democratic state officials, conservative pundits, Floridians and journalism professors alike have called for CBS News to retract or correct the story. Instead, the network put out multiple statements defending the report but never responded to specific criticism tied to pay-for-play allegations. The long-running newsmagazine acknowledged the backlash on Sunday without offering an apology or correction.
"In the mail this week, comments on our story about disparities in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccine in Palm Beach County, Florida. Viewers focused on an exchange with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at a press conference. Some viewers, including a retired newsman, applauded the story," correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi told viewers Sunday when addressing the controversy.
"But many more comments condemned our editing and reporting," Alfonsi continued before reading a pair of letters with negative feedback.
"Shameful biased reporting – that is what you are guilty of. You are no longer journalists. But lobbyists and advocates," a letter from Amy Ernest in Houston stated. Another long-time viewer informed Alfonsi he was finished watching "60 Minutes" after the attempted DeSantis takedown.
Alfonsi read the negative feedback but didn’t apologize or admit any wrongdoing.