CBS News stepped into a hornet’s nest of its own making when they aired a “60 Minutes” report about Gov. Ron DeSantis in which they dishonestly accused him of favoring wealthy Floridians during the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. But amid the back-and-forth between the Sunshine State’s chief executive and the activist media outlet, there is a truth that has gone unnoticed.
The reality is that by lying about Gov. DeSantis, CBS News has done him an immense favor. The Hill reported:
DeSantis vehemently denied any wrongdoing in the vaccine rollout, calling the claim “a fake narrative,” but his insiders are relishing the fight with “60 Minutes,” which has long been a target of the right. They say the fallout over the report will likely help bolster the governor’s profile as he is increasingly seen as an heir apparent to former President Trump.
Former Trump administration official Alexei Woltornist said: “He’s making immense political capital because he was a target of a journalistic hit job.”
He added: “Not only did he catch them, he exposed them.”
Unlike most other Republican politicians, DeSantis refused to take the hit job lying down. Since the airing of the report, he has viciously savaged the activist media outlet, referring to the segment as “horse manure.”
“I know corporate media thinks that they can just run over people; you ain’t running over this governor. I’m punching back,” DeSantis fumed. (See: ‘I’m Punching Back’: In Latest Comments, DeSantis Makes Clear He Is Not Done Owning ’60 Minutes’)
Not only has the governor exposed CBS News’ deceptive reportage during press conferences, he has also made the rounds on right-leaning news outlets to inform conservative audiences about the media’s malfeasance.
Republican consultant Shawn Frost told The Hill: “It certainly has given him yet another reason to appear before a national audience that leans conservative.”
The governor’s approval rating has been on the rise over recent weeks. A survey released by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy last month showed his ratings at 53 percent, about eight points higher than it was in July of last year.
DeSantis has been widely lauded on the right for his Trumplike ferocity against the activist media’s dishonest reporting tactics. Some have described him as a politician who has Trump’s strengths without his weaknesses.
“If there is anything that Trump taught us it’s that culture wars and fighting with media are winning fights for Republicans,” Woltornist pointed out.
DeSantis is increasingly seen as a presidential contender in 2024, especially if Trump decides not to run. “He’s a serious contender,” said Nelson Diaz, the former chairman of the Miami-Dade Republican Party. “His approach has been proven correct. We did not have to destroy people’s lives and shut down the economy to slow the spread, and I think that’s terrifying to Democrats, the fact that he was right.”
The “60 Minutes” report focused on the vaccine distribution in Palm Beach County, attempting to paint it as a situation in which DeSantis’ administration gave wealthy Floridians more access to the injection than less affluent areas like West Palm Beach.
The report discussed the allegation that DeSantis gave a contract to grocery store chain Publix to distribute the vaccination after the company made a $100,000 donation to his political action committee. However, those taking issue with the activist media’s characterization of the matter point out that the chain’s 817 stores make it the prime candidate for such a distribution effort.
“I think them attacking Publix is the biggest mistake they can make in Florida,” Frost said. “It’s the fourth estate here, honestly.”
Even some Democrats have pushed back against the narrative created by CBS News. Florida Division of Emergency Management leader Jared Moskowitz, a Democrat, posted a tweet on Sunday defending the governor, noting that it was not his office that suggested Publix for the vaccine distribution contract. He also explained that he spoke with CBS News and told them their allegations were not accurate.
“I did speak with @60Minutes. Never said I didn’t. They were very nice, but I told them that the @publix story was “bullshit”. Walked them through the whole process.The fact that I didn’t sit down on “camera” because I am responding to a 100 year emergency doesn’t change the truth”
Moskowitz continued, explaining that: “Publix was recommended by [Florida Division of Emergency Management] and [Florida Department of Health] as the other pharmacies were not ready to start. Period! Full Stop! No one from the Governors office suggested Publix. It’s just absolute malarkey.”
Dave Kerner, the Democratic mayor of Palm Beach County, issued a statement explaining that it was the county that requested that Publix be a part of the distribution effort.
“We also discussed our own local plans to expand mass vaccinations centers throughout the county, which the governor has been incredibly supportive. We asked and he delivered. They had that information, and they left it out because it kneecaps their narrative,” Kerner insisted.
The activist media has been taking shots at Gov. DeSantis since he was elected, but since the COVID-19 outbreak, they have intensified their attacks. But in this instance, the governor might want to consider sending CBS News a thank-you card. By using such deceptive reporting on this story, they gave him the perfect opportunity to raise his star at their expense.
Of course, CBS News’ gift would have meant nothing if DeSantis didn’t have what it takes to leverage this type of attack for his own benefit. More than any other so far, this story demonstrates why the Florida governor has differentiated himself from much of the Republican field. A Trumplike pugilism combined dealing effectively with the pandemic without trampling on liberty has served the governor well. If he keeps it up, we might be calling him “President DeSantis” in four years.