CBS defends '60 Minutes' DeSantis report despite pledge to provide 'full, fair, and contexted reporting'

’60 Minutes’ continues to receive backlash for Ron DeSantis-Publix package

‘Special Report’ anchor Bret Baier reacts on ‘America Reports’

When then-President Donald Trump accused CBS News’ “60 Minutes” of deceptively editing an interview he did with correspondent Lesley Stahl during the 2020 election campaign, the program stood by a pledge of “full, fair and contexted reporting.”

However, the network’s response to criticism of a botched hit piece targeting Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis suggests they’ve strayed from their once-lauded professional standard.

In October, Trump published purportedly unedited footage of his sitdown with Stahl on Facebook in an attempt to respond to what he perceived to be a “vicious attempted takeout’” by the veteran correspondent.

CBS harshly disavowed the move at the time, saying in a statement that Trump and the White House made an “unprecedented decision” to disregard an agreement with the network and release footage of the interview. Still, the network said, Trump’s behavior would “not deter 60 Minutes from providing its full, fair and contexted reporting which presidents have participated in for decades.”

On Tuesday, the network appeared to drastically lower the bar with their defense of a selectively edited clip of DeSantis responding to allegations by correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi that the governor engaged in a pay-to-play scheme by giving Publix lucrative vaccine distribution rights following a $100,000 donation to his PAC.

Since the report aired Sunday, Publix and DeSantis have vigorously disputed the piece’s recycled narrative, with critics noting that Publix was a natural fit for vaccine partnership given its more than 800 locations across the state.

Despite this, CBS doubled down on the widely criticized report, telling Fox News that “For over 50 years, the facts reported by 60 MINUTES have often stirred debate and prompted strong reactions. Our story Sunday night speaks for itself.”

“We requested an interview with Gov. Ron DeSantis, he declined;” they wrote. ” We spoke to State Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz twice, but he declined to be interviewed on camera for our story until well after our deadline. The idea we ignored their perspective is untrue.  Counter to his statement yesterday, we also spoke on the record with Palm Beach County Mayor David Kerner.”

Moskowitz and Kerner, both Democrats, spoke out against “60 Minutes” after the story aired.

“The reporting was not just based on bad information – it was intentionally false,” Kerner said in a statement on Monday. “’60 Minutes’ should be ashamed.”

A preview clip released Friday showed a tense exchange between DeSantis and Alfonsi over what the CBS reporter suggested was influence-peddling.

However, as first pointed out by conservative writer A.G. Hamilton, “60 Minutes” cut several minutes from the press conference, during which DeSantis explained that CVS and Walgreens had the vaccine first during its rollout at senior communities and long-term care facilities while Publix was the first chain to volunteer to roll out the vaccine in its stores. DeSantis also told Alfonsi that CVS and Walgreens would also get the vaccine when their mission of vaccinating Florida’s seniors was completed. 

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A CBS spokesperson initially told Fox News of the edited exchange: “As we always do for clarity, 60 MINUTES used the portion of the Governor’s over 2-minute response that directly addressed the question from the correspondent”, an apparent contrast with their earlier vow to provide “contexted reporting,” as critics observed. 

DeSantis called the report an orchestrated political “hit job,” telling  “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Monday that his words were “deceptively edited” to portray his state’s senior citizen vaccination plan with Publix to be nothing more than paying back a corporate political donor.

Fox News’ Joey Wulfsohn contributed to this report.

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