by Scott McKay
Those who are looking for someone who could be a post-Trump bearer of the MAGA standard within the Republican Party have had a keen eye on Ron DeSantis for a while now.
And this week it’s becoming perfectly clear why.
DeSantis was the subject of a tired and constant phenomenon in American politics: the 60 Minutes hit piece. That happened on Sunday, with a report by Sharyn Alfonsi alleging that DeSantis was running a “pay-for-play” scheme surrounding the state of Florida’s vaccine distribution.
DeSantis is the governor of Florida. He might be the most successful governor in America. When it comes to COVID-19, it’s very difficult to dispute that his results smash the competition. Florida never closed down like other states, and despite the fact that the state is heavily dependent on tourism the economic hit to the Sunshine State from the virus was among the mildest in America.
Not to mention that Florida’s vaccination program has been nothing short of a miracle. Florida’s population, among the oldest in America and therefore one of the most vulnerable, has a COVID death rate right in the middle of the pack among states, near the bottom among its senior citizens, and hospitalizations are down 53 percent since the beginning of the year when the vaccinations began in earnest.
COVID case counts are down 80 percent.
And more than 3.5 million senior citizens in Florida have been vaccinated.
It’s very obvious that Ron DeSantis was correct in his assessment about the virus and how best to handle it as a matter of public policy. It’s just as obvious that blue-state governors like the wretched Andrew Cuomo and abysmal Gavin Newsom have been categorically, disastrously wrong.
It’s similarly obvious that the corporate legacy media, of which 60 Minutes is possibly the most prestigious exemplar, at least within the medium of television, cannot have the public recognizing Ron DeSantis’s approaches are best.
Therefore, Alfonsi arrived in Tallahassee with her crew, daydreams of a damning exposé of DeSantis dancing in her head. For three months 60 Minutes has been attempting to find justification to bash DeSantis’s handling of COVID.
But things didn’t go the way Alfonsi and her bosses back in New York, who could have saved money on travel by trucking her up I-87 to Albany to look into Cuomo’s myriad scandals and entitled buffoonery, were hoping.
Alfonsi found a couple of Democrat politicians who said Florida’s vaccine rollout was racist because DeSantis prioritized senior citizens of all races for the first doses of vaccines available. As Florida’s senior population skews white and rich, it’s therefore Jim Crow if you opt for a race-neutral strategy to vaccinate the vulnerable.
Forget about the fact that the state of Florida has been doing vaccination drives in black churches for more than three months now. Also forget about the fact that Omari Hardy, a black Democrat state representative whom Alfonsi interviewed to push the “racist” narrative, had made the Palm Beach Post on Jan. 16 showing up at one of those churches to take credit for getting the congregation vaccinated.
Then Alfonsi found another narrative to push — that because the Publix grocery store chain, the most popular business in Florida and maybe the entire country, had backed DeSantis against his drug-addicted, male prostitute-consorting Soros-socialist Democrat opponent Andrew Gillum in the 2018 gubernatorial election, the governor was guilty of a pay-to-play operation in using Publix’s 800 locations (most, if not all, of which contain pharmacies), particularly in four counties including Palm Beach County as a test run, as vaccine distribution points.
The facts were injurious to Alfonsi’s narrative. There was no exclusivity for vaccine distribution at Publix locations. And there was no money changing hands between the state of Florida and the Publix chain.
Alfonsi asked DeSantis for an interview. His staff told her to get bent. Then Alfonsi’s producers hot-boxed the governor’s staff with accusatory questions on a razor-thin deadline. The governor’s staffers suggested Alfonsi talk to a pair of Democrats, Florida Division of Emergency Management head Jared Moskowitz and Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner, who were involved in the vaccine rollout. Moskowitz was, after all, the man who principally designed and executed the plan. To attack DeSantis is to attack him.
Alfonsi’s producers talked to Moskowitz and proceeded to ignore everything he told them. Then Alfonsi rudely accosted DeSantis at a press conference with Publix pay-for-play accusations, and what she got in return was a thorough and complete, though very polite and professional, public spanking:
So, first of all, when we did, the first pharmacies that had it [the vaccines] were CVS and Walgreens. And they had a long-term care mission. So, they were going to the long-term care facilities. They got vaccines in the middle of December, they started going to the long-term care facilities the third week of December to do LTCs. So that was their mission. That was very important. And we trusted them to do that. As we got into January, we wanted to expand the distribution points. So, yes, you had the counties, you had some drive-through sites, you had hospitals that were doing a lot, but we wanted to get it into communities more. So we reached out to other retail pharmacies — Publix, Walmart — obviously CVS and Walgreens had to finish that mission. And we said, we’re going to use you as soon as you’re done with that. For the Publix, they were the first one to raise their hand, say they were ready to go.
Did any of that make it into Alfonsi’s hit piece?
Nope. Not so much.
DeSantis and his team knew that was coming, and they were ready for it. No sooner did the piece come out but Moskowitz posted a tweet eviscerating 60 Minutes for what he called a “b***s**t” narrative about Publix. Felder similarly stepped up to defend DeSantis, and did so in perhaps the most damaging way to 60 Minutes possible. He said that not only was the Publix narrative “bad information” but “intentionally false.”
And then Ron DeSantis had his say.
In a press conference on Monday after the 60 Minutes piece aired, DeSantis didn’t just let 60 Minutes and CBS have it; he used the imbroglio to launch a full-throated verbal assault on all corporate media in America.
And then he did it again. It was a thing of beauty.
Then DeSantis went on Tucker Carlson and continued ripping 60 Minutes.
But what was most notable about DeSantis’s complete takedown of Alfonsi and the “New York corporate media” was that while it was passionate and unrelenting, it wasn’t vituperative or angry.
He was very matter-of-fact. He was professional. He was thorough and painstaking in presenting facts rather than invective.
And he left 60 Minutes nowhere to go.
That was obvious when, in a statement put out after their story began to go septic, CBS offered a mealy-mouthed claim of having interviewed “dozens” of sources and denying they ignored Moskowitz. The statement ended with this: “For over 50 years the facts reported by 60 MINUTES have often stirred debate and prompted spirited reactions. Our story Sunday night speaks for itself.”
Which sounds like they want a participation trophy.
Ron DeSantis isn’t after participation trophies. He’s after victory. And he got it this week.
We need a lot more of this among Republican politicians. If DeSantis keeps delivering, he may well be the one bearing the party’s standard in 2024.
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Scott McKay is publisher of the Hayride, which offers news and commentary on Louisiana and national politics. He’s also a novelist — check out his first book “Animus: A Tale of Ardenia,” available in Kindle and paperback.