CBS News is standing by a widely criticized report that suggested Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, R., gave the Publix grocery store chain preferable treatment to offer the coronavirus vaccine based on its donations to his PAC.

Democratic state officials, conservative pundits, Publix, and DeSantis himself have rejected the story, but CBS News issued a statement on Tuesday that ignored the story’s key accusation of pay-for-play.

PRESSURE MOUNTS ON ’60 MINUTES’ TO CORRECT, RETRACT DESANTIS REPORT: CRITIC SAYS ‘CBS CLEARLY MADE MISTAKES’

“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,” a CBS News spokesperson said in a statement to Fox News.

“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,” the CBS News spokesperson continued. “Our story Sunday night speaks for itself.”

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.”

Moskowitz and Kerner did not immediately respond to requests for comment regarding CBS News’ statement.

RON DESANTIS BLASTS CBS’ ’60 MINUTES’ FOR ‘DECEPTIVELY EDITED’ PUBLIX-COVID CLIP: A ‘POLITICAL NARRATIVE’

When asked why a defense of pay-for-play allegations from the “60 Minutes” report wasn’t in the statement, a CBS News spokesperson told Fox News the newsmagazine simply repeated claims already made in Florida newspapers and declined additional comment.

In the widely criticized report, “60 Minutes” correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi painted DeSantis as a villain who prioritized senior citizens over teachers and peppered in jabs at the Republican governor. Alfonsi implied the grocery chain was used to help with the vaccine distribution because it donated $100,000 to DeSantis’ PAC.

Publix called the notion that it received special access “absolutely false and offensive.”

“The irresponsible suggestion that there was a connection between campaign contributions made to Governor DeSantis and our willingness to join other pharmacies in support of the state’s vaccine distribution efforts 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,” a Publix spokesperson told Fox News.

CRITICS BLAST ’60 MINUTES’ FOR ‘FALSE NARRATIVE’ THAT DESANTIS ENGAGED PUBLIX IN PAY-FOR-PLAY VACCINE SCHEME

A CBS News insider told Fox News the Publix statement wasn’t included in the “60 Minutes” segment because the supermarket chain missed a deadline provided by producers.

CBS News previously brushed off allegations that “60 Minutes” deceptively edited a heated exchange between Alfonsi and DeSantis over the pay-for-play scheme she alleged. Alfonsi said CBS “obtained” the report of the donation, although it was publicly available to anyone with an Internet connection. Publix’s corporate PAC, like many others, makes contributions to members of both major parties.

“As we always do for clarity, ‘60 Minutes’ used the portion of the governor’s over two-minute response that directly addressed the question from the correspondent,” a CBS News spokesperson told Fox News.

Media Research Center vice president Dan Gainor blasted the entire ordeal.

FLORIDA DEMOCRAT: ’60 MINUTES’ DESANTIS REPORT WAS ‘ABSOLUTE MALARKEY’

“This wasn’t just run-of-the-mill awful journalism. This was a deliberate ‘60 Minutes’ hit job on a presumptive GOP 2024 presidential candidate. A once-famous name in news served as a proxy for the Democrat Party. It’s the kind of ‘news’ you would have seen on Pravda in the old Soviet Union and it’s completely inexcusable,” Gainor told Fox News.

“CBS News needs to get some actual journalists involved here. They need to run an across-the-board apology leading each of their newscasts and the next edition of ‘60 Minutes.’ The apology needs to be detailed and explain how the network manipulated facts and the interview to produce a lie,” he added. “Until they do, no conservative should respond to a CBS interview.”

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