The controversy stems from the report’s unsupported suggestion that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis used the state’s vaccination program to engage in a “pay-to-play” scheme with the supermarket chain Publix when he announced a distribution partnership with the company in January, shortly after it donated $100,000 to his political action committee.
But critics of this segment of the report say it failed to provide substantive evidence of wrongdoing and mischaracterized key details. The report also included footage from a press briefing at which 60 Minutes correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi asked DeSantis about the Publix relationship. However, important parts showing DeSantis denying wrongdoing (at 32:30 in footage of the briefing) weren’t included in the clip. The director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, Jared Moskowitz, and Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner, who are both Democrats, have backed up the governor’s account.
Note: Most of the 60 Minutes report presented accurate information about well-documented racial and economic disparities in the state’s COVID-19 vaccination distribution. But the controversy over the DeSantis allegations overshadowed that reporting.
Also note: CBS said DeSantis declined to be interviewed by 60 Minutes for the report.
Of interest:This video from NLP, created for educators, highlights the edits 60 Minutes made to the governor’s response to Alfonsi’s question in a side-by-side comparison.
Viral rumor rundown
NO: Midwin Charles, a legal analyst for CNN and MSNBC, did not have a severe allergic reaction and die just after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. YES: Charles tweeted on March 1 about getting the vaccine. YES: She died more than a month later, on April 6. NO: In an April 6 statement, her family did not disclose the cause of death. YES: Similar rumors circulated about Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, and about the rapper DMX, both of whom died April 9.
NO: A recent Gallup poll did not show an 11% approval rating for President Joe Biden. YES: According to Gallup, Biden’s average approval rating since taking office is 56%. YES: Biden’s Gallup approval rating among Republicans was 11% in the early days of his term and fell to 8% among Republicans in March. NO: Biden does not have the lowest approval rating of any president in U.S. history.
A St. Bonaventure University professor challenged 22 students to find out more about the questions journalists ask during White House press briefings. The students examined all the briefings in March and organized hundreds of questions into different topic categories. They found that questions about health were the most common, followed by questions about immigration, then international affairs. Students also found that the topic of race ranked near the bottom and that the environment was asked about the least. While the findings reflect public concern about COVID-19, some “could argue more questions about the economy and race are warranted.”
Your weekly issue of Get Smart About News is created by Peter Adams (@PeterD_Adams), Suzannah Gonzales and Hannah Covington (@HannahCov) of the News Literacy Project. It is edited by NLP’s Mary Kane (@marykkane).
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