Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced a COVID-19 vaccine distribution partnership with Publix grocery stores weeks after the company gave $100,000 to his PAC, CBS’ “60 Minutes” reported Sunday, citing campaign finance records. DeSantis and Publix deny any wrongdoing.
Why it matters: DeSantis has been criticized for directing vaccines toward wealthy communities, with some who benefitted from the vaccine pop-ups also donating to the governor’s political action committee, per Axios’ Tampa Bay reporter Ben Montgomery
The “60 Minutes” program highlighted reports of “vaccine favoritism,” with Florida’s poorer communities being left behind in the rollout, noting there’s no Publix in Belle Glade in Palm Beach County.
State Democratic Rep. Omari Hardy told the show “you have lots of folks who don’t have cars” in the community and that it’s a round trip of over two hours with 34 stops to the nearest Publix 25 miles away.
“Before, I could call the public health director. She would answer my calls. But now if I want to get my constituents information about how to get this vaccine I have to call a lobbyist from Publix? That makes no sense,” Hardy added. “They’re not accountable to the public.”
Of note: “60 Minutes” aired footage of CBS’ Sharyn Alfonsi confronting DeSantis at a press conference south of Orlando last month over the donation report, which DeSantis called “wrong.”
Alfonsi narrated that Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay said DeSantis “never met with her about the Publix deal.”
It cut back to her exchange with DeSantis, with Alfonsi saying: “The criticism here is that is pay for play, governor.”
DeSantis called the claim “a fake narrative,” adding that he met with local officials to discuss 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.”