Florida Dem claims he told CBS DeSantis-Publix story was 'bulls—'; producer says info used 'on background'

’60 Minutes’ continues to receive backlash for Ron DeSantis-Publix package

‘Special Report’ anchor Bret Baier reacts on ‘America Reports’

One of the prominent Florida Democrats who has spoken out against the controversial “60 Minutes” report targeting Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is shedding light on what exactly he told CBS News.

Members of both parties have accused the venerable newsmagazine show of concocting a “hit piece” accusing the potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate of engaging in a “pay-for-play” scheme involving the grocery store chain Publix. CBS News issued a statement on Tuesday defending its Sunday night report.

“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,” a CBS News spokesperson told Fox News. “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.

“For over 50 years, the facts reported by 60 MINUTES have often stirred debate and prompted strong reactions,” the spokesperson continued. “Our story Sunday night speaks for itself.”

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Moskowitz, a Democrat, who previously knocked the “60 Minutes” report after it aired, fired back on Twitter. 

“I did speak with @60Minutes. Never said I didn’t,” Moskowitz began. “They were very nice, but I told them that the @publix story was ‘bulls—‘. 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,” he added.

Emails obtained by Fox News shed light on some of the correspondence that took place between CBS News and DeSantis’ office ahead of Sunday’s broadcast. 

On March 31, the Wednesday before airing, “60 Minutes” associate producer Emily Gordon sent a list of to DeSantis communications staffer Meredith Beatrice with a response deadline set for the following day at 5 p.m. The questions included: “How did the state determine that seniors were at greater risk” to the coronavirus “than groups,” a response to claims from “sources” who say the vaccine rollout “favored wealthier communities” while “African American and Hispanic residents” were “not getting vaccinated as quickly” as White people. 

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Beatrice responded by requesting that DeSantis’ office be given more time to answer the questions. However, CBS never replied, according to a source to the situation.

The next morning, “60 Minutes” producer Oriana Zill de Granados confirmed to Beatrice that the report on DeSantis would air on Sunday and wrote: “Please send us your responses when you are able.”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis holds a media briefing concerning the COVID-19 vaccines at the Publix Supermarket at Treasure Coast Plaza on Tuesday, January 26, 2021, in Vero Beach.Tcn Desantis Publix 1
(Reuters)

According to the emails obtained by Fox News, Beatrice then requested Zill de Granados and Gordon interview Moskowitz, who she said was available that day and Friday to do an interview either in a studio or by Skype. 

The “60 Minutes” producer replied that they had requested an on-the-record interview with Moskowitz “repeatedly” since February and claimed that he had not responded to messages since mid-March. 

DeSantis’ office stressed that it was “important” for CBS News to interview Moskowitz and Palm Beach County Mayor David Kerner, who Zill de Granados said was not responsive to inquiries.

“Thank you for your input. Unfortunately, the deadline has passed,” Zill de Granados told Beatrice on Thursday afternoon. “As you may , the Covid pandemic makes our interview protocol much more complicated and time-consuming due to new distancing and testing requirements for correspondents and camera crews.”

However, that standard appeared not to apply to Florida State Rep. Omari Hardy, a DeSantis critic who “60 Minutes” correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi interviewed remotely.

“Luckily, we have already spoken to Director Moskowitz several times,” Zill de Granados continued. “We appreciate his perspective on the roll out in Florida. We have included the information he provided on background as it pertains to this story”. Zill de Granados also noted that Moskowitz had been asked to do on-camera interviews on Feb. 28 and March 12. 

When asked by Fox News if he thought “60 Minutes” “appreciated his perspective” on the vaccine rollout, Moskowitz replied, “Did you see the perspective that the person in charge of the Covid response told them how Publix was selected in their agency and that the contribution story was garbage?

“They ran with pay to play, when I told them it was done by my agency and why and how. Did you see that perspective?” Moskowitz added. 

On Thursday, Beatrice replied to the “60 Minutes” producer by questioning the “arbitrary deadlines” and noting that there were still “days” available before the airing and that she has “never encountered this issue before.”

DeSantis’ office submitted the answers to the questions on Friday, past the deadline set by “60 Minutes” but two days before the show aired. The responses were ultimately not included in the on-air report. 

That evening, Beatrice sent a blistering email accusing “60 Minutes” of “refusing” to interview Moskowitz and Kerner, as well as Florida Lottery Secretary John Davis. 

“This lack of professionalism — it’s clear you are more interested in pushing a baseless partisan narrative than in reporting the facts on Florida’s successful vaccine distribution effort — from your team on this matter is greatly concerning,” Beatrice told the producers.

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On Saturday morning, Beatrice asked the “60 Minutes” producers to confirm that they received the Friday evening email, to which Zill de Granados replied, “We received your response, thank you.”

CBS News did not immediately respond to Fox News’ requests for comment. 

Fox News’ Brian Flood contributed to this report. 

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