Don’t kid yourself: There will be no consequences for the 60 Minutes hit job on Gov. DeSantis
CBS News championed a contemptible lie this weekend, and not a single person involved will have to answer for it.
The news show 60 Minutes alleged, without evidence, that Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis rewarded a grocery chain with an “exclusive” deal to distribute coronavirus vaccines as part of a “pay for play” scheme involving political contributions.
There is nothing to support this claim. CBS’s own reporting makes no effort to connect Publix’s political donations to its role in making vaccines available to Florida residents. Neither does CBS’s reporting make any effort to follow up on the governor’s explanation for the state’s partnership with the popular grocer. 60 Minutes merely took two sets of facts, joined them together, and alleged, without evidence, wrongdoing by the Republican governor.
But don’t expect professional consequences for the journalists and producers who promoted this baseless conspiracy theory, even after new details, including incriminating emails and angry denials by Florida Democrats, have come to light.
There will be no repercussions. There will be no apologies. Except for what little self-policing journalists do themselves, there is no accountability in the news business.
That’s just the way it is.
This sad state of affairs is doubly enraging when one realizes the 60 Minutes report, which omitted both DeSantis’s detailed explanation for the state’s supposed "pay for play" partnership with Publix as well as relevant facts regarding Florida’s vaccine distribution program, is even more dishonest than it appears.
Private emails obtained by Fox News show DeSantis’s team made a concerted effort to get CBS in touch with self-described “progressive” Jared Moskowitz, the three-term Democratic state legislator who is now the director of Florida's Division of Emergency Management. The governor’s office went as far as to make Moskowitz available for a Skype or in-person interview.
“Unfortunately, the deadline has passed,” a 60 Minutes producer told DeSantis’s people, declining the opportunity to get on-the-record input from a state executive.
"Luckily," the producer continued, "we have already spoken to Director Moskowitz several times. We appreciate his perspective on the roll out in Florida. We have included the information he provided on background as it pertains to this story.”
Moskowitz says the producer’s comments are at odds with what the network eventually aired.
“I did speak with [60 Minutes],” he said on social media. “Never said I didn’t. They were very nice, but I told them that the [Publix] story was ‘bulls---.’”
He adds, “[I] walked them through the whole process. The fact that I didn’t sit down on ‘camera’ because I am responding to a 100-year emergency doesn’t change the truth.”
Moskowitz, who condemned CBS’s reporting immediately after the 60 Minutes report aired, is also none-too-pleased with the “appreciate his perspective” language used in the back-and-forth between the show’s producer and DeSantis’s office.
“Did you see the perspective that the person in charge of the COVID response told them how Publix was selected in their agency and that the contribution story was garbage?” he told Fox News. "They ran with pay-to-play, when I told them it was done by my agency and why and how. Did you see that perspective?"
DeSantis’s people likewise attempted to facilitate an interview between CBS and David Kerner, the Democratic mayor of Palm Beach County.
Neither Kerner, who says CBS “should be ashamed,” nor Moskowitz appears in the 60 Minutes report that aired this weekend.
Lastly, emails show the governor’s office responded to the network’s request for comment, providing a full list of detailed answers. Though DeSantis’s team provided the answers after 60 Minutes’s deadline had already passed, it did so two days before the report aired.
Then, on Saturday, the day before the DeSantis report went live, the governor’s office contacted the network to confirm it had received the answers.
"We received your response, thank you,” a producer responded.
Like Kerner and Moskowitz, the governor’s answers do not appear in the final report.
Amazingly, CBS stands by its reporting, even despite the flimsiness of its own journalism, denials by state Democrats, emails suggesting a calculated political hit job, and a mountain of evidence disproving the network’s suggestion of a pay-to-play scheme. And why shouldn’t CBS stick to its guns? What are you going to do? Call a cop?
The network said this week in a statement:
When Florida state data revealed people of color were vaccinated at a much lower rate than their wealthier neighbors, 60 MINUTES reported the facts surrounding the vaccine’s rollout, which is controlled by the governor. We requested and conducted interviews with dozens of sources and authorities involved. We requested an interview with Gov. Ron DeSantis, he declined; 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. 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.
If you’re angry, it doesn’t matter. Nothing is going to happen. No one at CBS will be held accountable. No one will be fired, demoted, or even reprimanded. In fact, CBS will almost certainly pull this same type of stunt again in the future.
That’s just the way it is.
The news industry is a multibillion-dollar monster, an untouchable beast with the power to influence legislation and launch wars. It's accountable to nothing except for perhaps members of its own class, and even then, most journalists are reluctant to criticize “legendary” reporters and media institutions for fear of becoming pariahs within the community.
There’s a reason why ABC News has never bothered to explain how it mistook footage from a gun range in Kentucky for a Trump administration-enabled war crime in Syria. There’s a reason why CBS has never bothered to explain why it conspired with ABC to fire the CBS staffer suspected of leaking a video showing journalist Amy Robach claiming on camera her superiors spiked her reporting on Jeffrey Epstein and his network of well-connected sexual predators. There’s a reason why Katie Couric still gets work, even after she was caught deceptively editing an interview to make Virginia gun rights activists look foolish. There’s a reason why even disgraced newsman Dan Rather, who is treated now as an elder statesman of reporting, complete with journalism awards named in his honor, has been invited to participate in any Biden White House press briefing of his choosing.
There’s a reason why the Washington Post, the Columbia Journalism Review, Axios, and so many others have been reluctant to criticize CBS for concocting a political scandal from thin air. The New York Times hasn’t even reported a single word on the matter.
Until the vast majority of journalists choose to stop looking the other way, worrying more about their good standing in the industry than about what is right, incidents such as 60 Minutes's DeSantis hit job will keep happening.
Because, the way it is now, people in the news business tend to care more about elite opinion and prestige than what you, the audience, think.