Analysis

BACKFIRED: CBS’s Failed Hit On DeSantis Ends Up Highlighting California Governor’s ‘No Bid’ Vaccine Contract

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Shelby Talcott Media Reporter
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The “60 Minutes” segment on Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis regarding vaccine distribution quickly unraveled, but inadvertently brought Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom into the spotlight.

The report, published Sunday, accused DeSantis of choosing Publix – Florida’s largest grocery store chain – to partner with for the vaccine rollout due to donations the company made to his political committee. “60 Minutes” quickly faced backlash and critics began taking apart the segment, noting that the CBS show aired an edited clip of DeSantis explaining why Publix was chosen, that two Democrats publicly decried the allegations, that Publix’s donations did not make up a substantial amount of funding, and much more.

Critics also began calling out “60 Minutes” for airing a “hit job,” as former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany called it, on DeSantis while ignoring the failures of Democratic governors in other states. (RELATED: ’60 Minutes’ Flamed Over ‘Hit Job’ Against Gov. DeSantis, Publix On Vaccine Distribution)

One notable governor people pointed to was Newsom, who gave Blue Shield a $15 million no-bid contract to manage California’s vaccination efforts. Blue Shield reportedly contributed almost $23 million to the Democratic governor’s campaigns and special causes throughout the years, according to Fierce Healthcare.

“Of that, nearly 90% has funded the homelessness initiatives that critics and allies say are dearest to Newsom’s heart,” Fierce Healthcare wrote in March. “Newsom, elected governor in 2018, in turn has rewarded Blue Shield and its executives with positions of power during the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed nearly 56,000 Californians’ lives.”

Instead of honing in on Newsom’s deal with Blue Shield after the company reportedly donated millions, “60 Minutes” opted to try and connect Publix’s much smaller $100,000 donation to DeSantis’ political committee. Critics also pointed out the difference in the vaccine distribution success regarding Florida compared to California.

“Even more than that, while Publix’s effort has been a huge success in Florida and received bipartisan praise, the Blue Shield program in CA has had enormous challenges and expensive frustration,” writer A.G. Hamilton pointed out.

Public health officials and lawmakers have pushed back on the Blue Shield vaccine deal and various counties in California “simply refuse to sign on with the insurer,” according to the Fierce Healthcare report. Blue Shield whistleblower Michael Johnson reportedly noted that while the company can’t technically make money off of the vaccinations, it stands to gain with regards to marketing.

“The reason Blue Shield has been deleted for this is not because of its capabilities, but because of its relationship with Newsom,” Johnson asserted according to the Fierce Healthcare report.

Newsom claimed the decision to pair with Blue Shield has nothing to do with its long-standing support, calling the allegations “nonsense,” according to Deadline.

“Everybody came together looking at what’s working, what’s not working, and we identified two partners in particular, two nonprofits, Kaiser and Blue Shield,” Newsom said in February. “They have the kind of scale, they have the capacity…we were looking for.”

Newsom didn’t just pair with a company that has backed him for years. He also tapped Blue Shield CEO Paul Markovich “to help steer the state’s COVID testing strategy,” according to Fierce Healthcare, which noted that the efforts have “faltered.”

The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway was another individual to point out the lack of reporting from “60 Minutes” regarding Newsom, calling the show “propaganda press.”

Blue Shield previously denied allegations that its many years of donating to Newsom – including contributing $269,000 to an account to help the governor fight a recall election – benefited the company. (RELATED: ‘I Will Fight It’: Gov. Newsom Criticizes Recall Election Effort, Promotes Counter-Campaign)

“There is no financial or other benefit being bestowed upon, or accrued by, Blue Shield,” Blue Shield spokesperson Don Campbell said according to Fierce Healthcare. “Blue Shield was asked by the state to help with vaccines. Our reward is to help save lives.”

As for CBS News’ “60 Minutes,” the show has only addressed the shortened DeSantis clip, telling the Daily Caller on Monday that it was edited down “for clarity.”