Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis repeatedly told a reporter earlier this week that they were “wrong” after he dismantled the journalist’s accusation that he unfairly favored a supermarket chain because of a donation to his political committee.
During the presser, the reporter claimed without evidence that DeSantis gave COVID-19 vaccination rights to Publix because the chain previously donated $100,000 to his political committee, according to Forbes.
“First of all, what you’re saying is wrong, that’s a fake narrative,” DeSantis told the reporter.
DeSantis noted that the first pharmacies that had the COVID-19 vaccine in his state were CVS and Walgreens, not Publix. “They had a long-term care mission, so they were going to the long-term care facilities,” he explained. “They got 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.”
By January, the state wanted to expand access to the vaccine for Florida residents. “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.
Places like Palm Beach “were kind of struggling at first in terms [of seniors being vaccinated],” the Republican said. So he met with the county mayor, the administrator, and other folks at Palm Beach County and offered some options to increase access. “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.”
DeSantis noted that Palm Beach is a Florida county with a heavy elderly population. Thus far, the governor emphasized, “almost 75% of the seniors in Palm Beach” 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.”
When the reporter continued down the same line of questioning, the governor pushed back, “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. “You’re wrong, you’re wrong, you’re wrong.”