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Publix and Mayor Kerner blast 60 Minutes report on vaccines in Florida

60 Minutes report on vaccines in Florida. (CBS Newspath)

Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner and Publix both say a recent report by 60 Minutes on vaccines in Florida is false.

The 60 Minutes report is titled, "How the wealthy cut the line during Florida's frenzied vaccine rollout." It featured an interview with West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James who expressed his frustration in fighting to get the vaccine to his city. James told 60 Minutes he heard about a nursing home, board members, and "their wealthy pals" lining up for vaccinations in light of an order from Gov. Ron DeSantis for those vaccines to go to elderly residents and staff as part of his "Seniors First" platform.

Florida Representative Omari Hardy also gave an interview to 60 Minutes. He criticized the lack of equitable access to the vaccine.

Related: Fallout continues over 60 Minutes report

A major sticking point is over reports of campaign donations. 60 Minutes cites campaign finance reports that show Publix donated $100,000 to Friends of Ron DeSantis, a political action committee in December 2020. The heiress to the Publix fortune, Julie Jenkins Fancelli, previously gave $55,000 to the same PAC, and her brother-in-law donated another $25,000.

In January, DeSantis would go on to announce that Publix would be the sole distributor of the vaccine in Palm Beach County, which drew concerns from people in the Glades area where the nearest Publix was about 30 minutes away.

Weeks ago, DeSantis called it a "false narrative" in a confrontation with a reporter in Melbourne. The reporter who asked if it was a "pay-to-play" situation turned out to be 60 Minutes reporter Sharyn Alfonsi.

Publix blasted the report, saying in part, "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."

Publix added in a statement on social media that it's doing its part and is "proud" to have administered "more than 1.5 million doses" of the vaccine to people in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina.

Mayor Kerner also responded saying in part, "The reporting was not just based on bad information - it was intentionally false."

Kerner thanked DeSantis for supporting the residents of Palm Beach County and said 60 Minutes "should be ashamed."

Here is Kerner's full statement:

I watched the 60 Minutes segment on Palm Beach County last night and feel compelled to issue this statement. The reporting was not just based on bad information - it was intentionally false. I know this because I offered to provide my insight into Palm Beach County's vaccination efforts and 60 Minutes declined. They know that the Governor came to Palm Beach County and met with me and the County Administrator and we asked to expand the state's partnership with Publix to Palm Beach County. We also discussed our own local plans to expand mass vaccinations centers throughout the county, which the Governor has been incredibly supportive.
We asked and he delivered. They had that information, and they left it out because it kneecaps their narrative.
We have confronted this pandemic for over a year. Our residents, like all Americans, are tired. And the media is making it worse. They are hellbent on dividing us for cheap views and clicks. 60 Minutes should be ashamed.
I thank the Governor for supporting the residents of Palm Beach County. Because of his efforts, working in coordination with Palm Beach County officials, over 275,000 seniors in our county-which is over 75% of the total senior population- have been vaccinated. I am proud of how our county and state leadership have executed on this important mission, and the results speak for themselves.

60 Minutes airs Sunday nights on CBS12.