Coverage of ’60 Minutes’ fiasco focuses on ‘gift’ to DeSantis, not journalistic blunder

Much of the mainstream media coverage of the botched “60 Minutes” report targeting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has focused on how the prominent Republican could politically benefit from the episode rather than addressing the journalistic malpractice by CBS. 

The report that aired on Sunday accused DeSantis of partaking in a “pay-for-play” scheme in which he rewarded the grocery store chain Publix with coronavirus vaccine distribution rights following a $100,000 campaign contribution from the company. 

While the report has sparked bipartisan backlash most critics have cited the deceptive editing of an exchange between DeSantis and CBS correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi to omit the governor’s explanation of how the Publix deal came to be, as the most egregious decision by the program. 

However, many members of the media see the controversy as a “gift” for the potential 2024 hopeful. 

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“The report — and the backlash — amount to a massive gift to DeSantis as he looks to his reelection race next year and, he hopes, a 2024 run for the Republican presidential nomination,” CNN editor-at-large Chris Cillizza wrote Tuesday. “Like any ambitious national politician, DeSantis sought to quickly move to take advantage of the situation … Trump-aligned commentators rushed to DeSantis’ defense, casting this episode as evidence of just how scared the media is of the Florida governor’s 2024 prospects.”

Cillizza added: “DeSantis couldn’t have written this script any better. He gets oodles more national attention and love from Trump conservatives, all the while being able to bash away at the media. Win, win, win.”

The Poynter Institute for Media Studies appeared to agree, citing Cillizza’s piece calling the episode a “gift” and noting that “in the end, this all could benefit DeSantis.”

“This doesn’t ruin the ’60 Minutes’ brand, but this was not one of the show’s finer moments,” Poynter’s senior media writer Tom Jones gently scolded the CBS program. 

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Axios expressed a similar sentiment in a report headlined, “DeSantis milks ’60 Minutes’ spat.

“Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Trump ally with his eyes on the White House, is dialing up a dispute with ’60 Minutes’ — seizing on a juicy chance to ingratiate himself with the GOP base by bashing the media,” the report began. “It’s a political gift akin to all the Fox fodder that Sen. Tom Cotton gobbled up after the N.Y. Times revolt over his op-ed.”

The Washington Post, while refraining from using the “gift” phrasing, made the same argument with the headline, “How Ron DeSantis’s critics are turning him into a hero for the right.”

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“More than anything, though, [DeSantis] has a plausible case to make to Republicans that he’s being singled out politically by nefarious Democrats and the media,” Post senior political reporter Aaron Blake wrote.

“DeSantis is the governor of a big state, and that comes with both appropriate scrutiny and the possibility that this scrutiny will overreach. But when it comes to Republicans who can use that scrutiny to build their brands — and potentially launch a 2024 presidential candidacy based on that, rather than on Trump’s good graces — DeSantis has no equal at this point.”