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Yikes: E-mails show DeSantis team asked CBS, 60 Minutes to interview Moskowitz — and were told “the deadline has passed”

Did 60 Minutes go out of its way to concoct the hit piece on Ron DeSantis? New e-mails published by Fox News this morning show that the Florida governor’s team tried to arrange an interview between Sharyn Alfonsi and the Democrat in charge of the state’s emergency response agency, along with the Democratic mayor of Palm Beach County, to explain the Publix partnership. They even offered to make Jared Moskowitz available by Skype or in person.

“Unfortunately, the deadline has passed,” the 60 Minutes producer responded:

According to the emails obtained by Fox News, Beatrice then requested Zill de Granados and Gordon interview Moskowitz, who she said was available that day and Friday to do an interview either in a studio or by Skype.

The “60 Minutes” producer replied that they had requested an on-the-record interview with Moskowitz “repeatedly” since February and claimed that he had not responded to messages since mid-March.

DeSantis’ office stressed that it was “important” for CBS News to interview Moskowitz and Palm Beach County Mayor David Kerner, who Zill de Granados said was not responsive to inquiries.

“Thank you for your input. Unfortunately, the deadline has passed,” Zill de Granados told Beatrice on Thursday afternoon. “As you may know, the Covid pandemic makes our interview protocol much more complicated and time-consuming due to new distancing and testing requirements for correspondents and camera crews.”

However, that standard appeared not to apply to Florida State Rep. Omari Hardy, a DeSantis critic who “60 Minutes” correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi interviewed remotely.

CBS News insisted yesterday that they had spoken with Moskowitz, but that he wanted it “on background.” Nevertheless, they claimed that Moskowitz’ input was reflected in the piece, a claim Moskowitz himself hotly refuted on Twitter:

“Luckily, we have already spoken to Director Moskowitz several times,” Zill de Granados continued. “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”. …

When asked by Fox News if he thought “60 Minutes” “appreciated his perspective” on the vaccine rollout, Moskowitz replied, “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?

“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?” Moskowitz added.

The 60 Minutes team keeps making reference to “deadlines,” but that’s nonsense. A deadline isn’t more important than getting the story right. That’s true for a newspaper on a daily schedule, and it’s even more true for a weekly television news program. CBS News and 60 Minutes appear to have used these “deadlines” as a gotcha game while demanding that DeSantis prove a negative on Publix. Both of those left CBS News and 60 Minutes an excuse to run a cooked story and later claim that the fault was DeSantis’ for not cooperating enough in their hit job scheme.

Even beyond that, one has to wonder whether anyone at 60 Minutes or CBS News even watched their own segment. Poynter’s Tom Jones asks why they ran this pay-to-play allegation without having any evidence to support it. All they had was a mundane corporate political donation and Sharyn Alfonsi’s edited shoutfest, Jones concludes at the journalism industry’s self-analytical institute. The reporter never showed any connection at all to the donation, nor apparently followed up on the information DeSantis gave her.

“There was really no there there,” Jones writes, paraphrasing Gertrude Stein’s famous observation about Oakland, after first paying obsequious homage to 60 Minutes‘ reputation:

CBS’s “60 Minutes” is the finest and most respected investigative journalism show in the history of television. Even after 53 years on the air, “60 Minutes” remains among the most relevant, effective and powerful brands in news. There’s no dispute that it has been and continues to be home to elite reporting on the most critical issues of our time.

But that doesn’t mean it’s infallible. And a sloppy moment on Sunday’s show is raising serious concerns. …

If that is true — if DeSantis ran a “pay-for-play” scheme involving vaccinations for the coronavirus — that’s an explosive story. But “60 Minutes” really didn’t deliver substantial evidence that DeSantis did any such thing.

Yes, Publix donated to DeSantis’ reelection campaign. But that is neither illegal nor unusual. Big companies often donate to political campaigns of both major parties. Yet the “60 Minutes” piece used that as the main evidence for its premise that DeSantis did something shady. They really didn’t have much else on that topic. There was really no there there.

Oddly, the Rathergate controversy involving the now-defunct spinoff 60 Minutes II never comes up in Jones’ recapitulation of the news magazine’s “stellar” reputation. It should, as this is yet another example of cooked narrative journalism by the same outlet. One has to wonder is there’s any there there in that reputation.

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