GSAN: ’60 Minutes’ controversy | Coca-Cola ban? | Biden press questions

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'60 Minutes' controversy | Coca-Cola ban? | Biden press questions


Clarity or deception?

An April 4 report from the long-running CBS News newsmagazine 60 Minutes on disparities in Florida’s vaccine rollout has touched off a wave of criticism questioning the piece’s accuracy and fairness.

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.

CBS News defended the edits and stands by the report. At the conclusion of its April 11 episode, 60 Minutes acknowledged criticism of its report and read several letters from viewers. DeSantis, meanwhile, has responded to the incident by going on the offensive, broadly accusing “partisan corporate media” of maliciously trying to damage him.

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.

Note: COVID-19 vaccines have been proven to be safe and effective. As the population gets vaccinated, it is inevitable that some people will die coincidentally from unrelated causes. As of April 5, according to The Washington Post, “no deaths had been connected to Covid vaccines” in the United States.


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.


NO: The state of Georgia is not removing Coca-Cola products from all state-owned buildings after the company’s CEO, James Quincey, issued a statement criticizing the state’s new voting legislation. YES: A group of eight Georgia Republican state legislators on April 3 wrote a letter requesting “all Coca-Cola Company products be removed” from their offices.


★ NewsLit Picks



“Data reveals the topics reporters are asking the White House about the most” (Oliver Darcy, CNN Business).

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.”


Quick Picks

“Facebook hopes tiny labels on posts will stop users confusing satire with reality” (James Vincent, The Verge).


“Google Has a Secret Blocklist that Hides YouTube Hate Videos from Advertisers—But It’s Full of Holes” (Leon Yin and Aaron Sankin, The Markup).


“Immigration coverage needs more nuanced language” (Doris Truong, Poynter).


Thanks for reading!

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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