Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis didn’t pull any punches during a press conference earlier on the week when he took on a journalist who claimed that he was favoring a business that donated to his campaign.
DeSantis was accused by a reporter of giving special favors to a supermarket chain Publix by allowing them the COVID-19 vaccination rights thanks to their generous donation of about $100,000 to his political committee, as was reported by Forbs.
“First of all, what you’re saying is wrong, that’s a fake narrative,” DeSantis told the reporter, before systematically dismantling the argument before the prying eyes of the cameras and the world.
The governor first pointed out that in the state of Florida CVS and Walgreens, not Publix, were the first pharmacies to get access to the COVID-19 vaccine.
“They had a long-term care mission, so they were going to the long-term care facilities,” he explained. “They got the vaccine in the middle of December, they started going to the long-term care facilities the third week of December. So it was their mission; that was very important and we trusted them to do that.”
DeSantis then went on to explain about the distribution plan for all Flrodia residents saying, “As we got into January, we wanted to expand the distribution points … 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,” he said.
Publix was “the first one to raise their hand and say they were ready to go,” DeSantis said, and their work was on a “trial basis.”
“I had three counties — I actually showed up that weekend and talked to seniors across four different Publix,” he said. The governor asked for feedback from the seniors about the vaccination experience and said it was a “100% positive” reaction. “So we expanded it,” he said.
As if that weren’t explanation enough, the governor went on to cover more ground, showing how he overcame obstacles to make the shots available to more Floridians saying that areas like Palm Beach “were kind of struggling at first in terms [of seniors being vaccinated],” and explained that he met with the county mayor and administrator along with other officials and helped troubleshoot options to increase the access to shots, which included Publix:
“We can do more drive-through sites, we can give more to hospitals, we can do the Publix thing, we can do this,” DeSantis recalled. “They calculated that 90% of their seniors live within a mile and a half of a Publix and they said we think that would be the easiest thing for our residents. So we did that.”
To date, “almost 75% of the seniors in Palm Beach,” which has a heavily elderly population, have been vaccinated “and the reason is because you have the strong retail footprint.”
“So our way has been multifaceted, it has worked. And we’re also now very much expanding CVS and Walgreens now that they’ve completed the long-term care mission,” DeSantis said, crediting the “strong retail footprint” for that accomplishment.
“So our way has been multifaceted, it has worked. And we’re also now very much expanding CVS and Walgreens now that they’ve completed the long-term care mission.”
The reporter, not to be deterred, continued to question DeSantis’s moral motivation for allowing the chain to carry the COVID-19 vaccine, but the governor didn’t back down: “It’s wrong, it’s wrong, it’s a fake narrative.”
“I just disabused you of the narrative and you don’t care about the facts because obviously I laid it out for you in a way that is irrefutable, and so it’s clearly —,” DeSantis started in.
“No, no, no,” the governor told the reporter before moving on to a new journalist for questions. “You’re wrong, you’re wrong, you’re wrong.”