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A screenshot from "60 Minutes" of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Photo: CBS

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced a COVID-19 vaccine distribution partnership with Publix grocery stores weeks after the company gave $100,000 to his PAC, CBS' "60 Minutes" reported Sunday, citing campaign finance records. DeSantis and Publix deny any wrongdoing.

Why it matters: DeSantis has been criticized for directing vaccines toward wealthy communities, with some who benefitted from the vaccine pop-ups also donating to the governor's political action committee, per Axios' Tampa Bay reporter Ben Montgomery.

A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

Driving the news: The "60 Minutes" program highlighted reports of "vaccine favoritism," with Florida's poorer communities being left behind in the rollout, noting there's no Publix in Belle Glade in Palm Beach County.

  • State Democratic Rep. Omari Hardy told the show "you have lots of folks who don't have cars" in the community and that it's a round trip of over two hours with 34 stops to the nearest Publix 25 miles away.
  • "Before, I could call the public health director. She would answer my calls. But now if I want to get my constituents information about how to get this vaccine I have to call a lobbyist from Publix? That makes no sense," Hardy added. "They're not accountable to the public." 

Of note: "60 Minutes" aired footage of CBS' Sharyn Alfonsi confronting DeSantis at a press conference south of Orlando last month over the donation report, which DeSantis called "wrong."

  • Alfonsi narrated that Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay said DeSantis "never met with her about the Publix deal."
  • It cut back to her exchange with DeSantis, with Alfonsi saying: "The criticism here is that is pay for play, governor."
  • DeSantis called the claim "a fake narrative," adding that he met with local officials to discuss options.
"We can do more drive-thru sites, we can give more to hospitals. We can do the Publix. And they said, 'We think that would be the easiest thing for our residents."
— DeSantis

For the record: The donation is the latest in controversial political spending by associates and beneficiaries of Publix.

  • Heiress Julie Jenkins Fancelli donated about $300,000 to fund the rally that preceded the U.S. Capitol riot, Axios Tampa Bay's Montgomery and Selene San Felice report.
  • The popular grocery chain employs 225,000 people and did $38.1 billion in retail sales in 2019, per Montgomery and San Felice, the reporters note.

What they're saying: Publix said in a statement, "The irresponsible suggestion that there was a connection between campaign contributions" made to DeSantis and "our willingness to join other pharmacies" supporting Florida's vaccine rollout is "absolutely false and offensive."

  • "We are proud of our pharmacy associates for administering more than 1.5 million doses of vaccine to date and for joining other retailers in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia to do our part to help our communities emerge from the pandemic," the statement added.
  • Dave Kerner, mayor of Palm Beach County and a Democrat, accused 60 Minutes' of publishing "intentionally false" reporting in a statement on Monday, and of leaving out information that he met with DeSantis and the county administrator to discuss expanding the state's partnership with Publix.
  • Representatives for DeSantis and CBS did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to clarify that the nearest Publix to Belle Glade is 25 miles away. This article has been updated with a statement and additional information from Dave Kerner, mayor of Palm Beach County.

Go deeper

Florida takes measures to avoid a "catastrophic flood" at wastewater pond near Tampa

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Crews are working to prevent "a real catastrophic flood situation" and are evacuating people out of harm's way, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said during a press conference Sunday, the AP reports.

Why it matters: DeSantis declared a state of emergency on Saturday due to a leak at a wastewater pond in the Tampa area.

DeSantis declares state of emergency over leak at Tampa Bay-area wastewater pond

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at a news conference in Melbourne, Florida. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Saturday declared a state of emergency for Manatee County as officials warned the collapse of a gypsum stack at the Piney Point industrial site was "imminent."

The big picture: The old phosphate plant site, in operation from the 1960s until 2001, holds stacks of phosphogypsum, a byproduct of fertilizer production, and large pools of polluted water, Axios' Ben Montgomery, Selene San Felice reported. A leak was discovered in the 77-acre process water pond last week.

Facebook paying up to $14M to settle employment discrimination claims

Photo: T.J. Kirkpatrick/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Facebook has agreed to pay up to $14.25 million to settle allegations that it discriminated against American workers by reserving positions for temporary visa holders, the Justice Department announced on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The settlement represents the largest civil penalty and monetary award that the Civil Rights Division has recovered in the 35-year history of the Immigration and Nationality Act's anti-discrimination provision.