The latest media outrage campaign directed at Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) stems from his decision to prioritize seniors when it comes to administering the COVID-19 vaccine. There are obviously practical reasons for this, since the elderly are most vulnerable to the coronavirus, yet the media has portrayed this as a political scandal. It’s obvious why: One, the media has made DeSantis the villain in its coverage of the coronavirus — even though Florida had one of the best responses among the populous states — and two, DeSantis is looking more and more like a heavy contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.
Politico reported last week that DeSantis’ “position is strengthened among the GOP grassroots and elites heading into his 2022 reelection in Florida and accompanied by increasing conservative chatter nationwide about a presidential bid.” Politico, naturally, insisted that the presidential hype was simply because of how critics portrayed him during the coronavirus pandemic.
In reality, DeSantis has emerged as a potential contender because his approach to the pandemic kept Florida’s economy from crumbling while keeping the state’s death rate per capita far lower than most other states with large populations. The only larger state with a lower per capita death rate is California, which has had 20,000 more deaths than Florida. New York, Texas, Illinois, Michigan, Arizona, and 22 others including Washington, D.C. have all seen more deaths per 100,000 residents than Florida. This doesn’t mean Florida has had the best response, but it does show that the state has kept deaths low relative to population, which is a feat considering the aging population of the Sunshine State is most vulnerable to the virus.
Now, mainstream media outlets have shifted their coverage to focus on a new smear against DeSantis, this time alleging corruption within the state’s vaccination rollout process. NBC News last Thursday published an article titled “Florida governor accused of playing politics with Covid vaccine,” criticizing DeSantis for prioritizing senior citizens, including Holocaust survivors and veterans. NBC accused DeSantis of mainly prioritizing possible Republican voters, but again, the elderly are the most vulnerable to dying from COVID-19, so it makes sense to prioritize them. As one prominent Republican Twitter user posited, “If DeSantis is only vaccinating seniors because they tend to vote Republican (per the media’s newest conspiracy), does that mean that Cuomo was only endangering their lives in nursing homes to maintain larger voting majorities?”
Some of DeSantis’ critics have tried to claim that the governor is prioritizing Republican-heavy counties for the vaccine, but data from the South Florida Sun Sentinel shows vaccine disbursement has not been heavily focused on any one county.
NBC and other outlets, like CBS, have tried to claim DeSantis acted corruptly by setting up a vaccine distribution program with Publix because the supermarket chain donated to the governor’s campaign. While that is true, Publix also donates to Democrats (not as heavily as Republicans, but still quite a bit) and above all else, Publix supermarkets are popular destinations in Florida. The chain has possibly some of the best brand loyalty in the country. As someone who grew up in Florida, the lack of Publix elsewhere in the country is torturous.
Think of it as Sheetz in the south or Wawa in Pennsylvania and New Jersey or In-N-Out Burger in the west – it’s a ubiquitous brand that is easy to locate and likely to be visited. It makes perfect sense to get Publix involved in vaccine distribution, especially since, unlike the other places mentioned a minute ago, it has a pharmacy. Also, the partnership with Publix was part of a pilot program that now includes other corporations.
NBC also attacked DeSantis for providing a “pop-up” vaccine event in Manatee County, suggesting political favoritism. Manatee County did vote heavily for President Donald Trump in 2020, with the incumbent taking 57.6% of the vote while then-candidate Joe Biden received 41.6%, but it also has a large senior population and was behind on getting residents vaccinated. Last week, DeSantis explained to Fox News the decision to create the vaccine event, which administered doses to 3,000 seniors:
Today’s event where we have the 3,000 seniors, that was over and above what that county had been getting, we saw that there was, that we needed to get more seniors in that particular county. So we worked with some of the local neighborhoods and said, where’s a lot of seniors? Where can we go in and knock out several thousand very quickly to get those numbers up?
The media is clearly terrified of DeSantis because, to many Republicans, he appears to be the more presidential version of Trump. DeSantis is tough on the media, sets the record straight to his critics, and governs in a free-market conservative manner, while avoiding the rhetorical pitfalls frequently associated with Trump.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.