Do you know how unfair a story has to be to a Republican, especially a Trumpist Republican with national ambitions, for multiple Democrats to step up in his defense?
That’s where we are with the “60 Minutes” hit piece on DeSantis, which Ed covered this morning. The nutshell version: Publix, a ubiquitous supermarket chain in Florida, donated $100,000 to DeSantis and ended up partnering with the state to distribute the COVID vaccine. Smells like a quid pro quo to us, “60 Minutes” asserted. But Jared Moskowitz, the director of the Florida’s Division of Emergency Management, said that was nonsense, claiming that Publix was recommended by experts because other big-chain pharmacies weren’t ready to start vaccinating yet.
This afternoon Dave Kerner, the Democratic mayor of Palm Beach County, chimed in as well. Not only didn’t DeSantis force Publix on us, Kerner says, he asked DeSantis to expand the partnership with Publix. And he was willing to tell “60 Minutes” that.
They weren’t interested in hearing from him, he claims. Why not?
NRO notes in an editorial today that Publix donates to political entities on both sides. And $100,000 isn’t much by their standards:
Not only is Publix the largest and most widely trusted grocery-store chain in the state of Florida, but the majority of its 831 stores in the state have well-equipped pharmacies at which Floridians are accustomed to getting flu shots. Irrespective of any other logistical considerations, it would have been surprising if Publix had not been one of the major players in the state’s effort. It is true that Publix has recently given $100,000 to Ron DeSantis’s gubernatorial reelection bid. It is also true that it gave a million dollars to the progressive Urban League last year, and that, back in 2018, it gave $100,000 to Democratic campaigns in the state. To believe that there is a connection between this routine behavior and decisions that were made during an unforeseen once-in-a-century pandemic is to stretch oneself to the breaking point.
$100,000 isn’t much by DeSantis’s standards either. The funniest thing about this story is the idea that a donation that modest might have been sufficient to give Publix the inside track on an undertaking as massive and potentially lucrative as statewide vaccine distribution. Considering how expensive Florida’s media markets are, $100K is peanuts. In context, it’s like Dr. Evil holding the world for ransom for one milllllllion dollars:
“We’d like exclusive distribution rights for the vaccine, governor.”
“Sorry, no can do.”
“Oh? Would … one hundred thousand dollars change your mind?”
Publix is indignant, naturally:
— Publix (@Publix) April 5, 2021
I didn’t realize until today just how many stores they had in Florida, making them a natural choice for a statewide effort. And I didn’t know until a Twitter pal highlighted it that Publix actually offers cheap antibiotics free of charge at its stores so long as you have a prescription. And that’s not all: “A second low-cost prescription program provides customers with 90-day supplies of commonly prescribed medications for $7.50, including treatments for cholesterol, mental health, arthritis, gastrointestinal issues and more.” Go figure that a chain that’s well known to senior citizens for cheap or free medication would be targeted by the state to administer a vaccine that protects senior citizens from a deadly disease.
The other idiotic thing about this fake scandal is the assumption that $100,000 is worth more to DeSantis politically than efficient vaccine distribution is. Even if you think he’s amoral and would hypothetically place his own ambitions above the need to get Floridians immunized as quickly as possible, in no rational sphere of reality does $100K advance those ambitions more than defeating COVID expeditiously does. He’s going to run for reelection as governor and ultimately for president chiefly on his pandemic record: He opened the schools, kept businesses functioning, avoided any New-York-style mega-outbreaks — and (he’d like to say) got Florida’s population inoculated at a rate equal to or better than most other states. Remember too that his state has the highest number of confirmed cases of the British variant of any U.S. jurisdiction; there’s real potential for a new wave of COVID in Florida if vaccinations don’t happen quickly, which would mean not only misery and death for citizens but major damage to DeSantis’s big electoral credential.
And yet “60 Minutes” wants us to believe $100,000 was enough for him to risk that. Please.
Exit question: Are they going to correct or “clarify” this segment next week? My guess is no. It’s always hard to get the media to admit major error but twice as hard when the target is a major Republican antagonist.