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RGA Puts Up Early Statewide Ad In Rush to Defend Vulnerable Ron DeSantis As He Comes Under Fire For Vaccine Distribution Scandal

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As Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is under fire for prioritizing his donors and political allies for vaccines, the Republican Governors Association rushed to put up a TV spot to defend DeSantis in every Florida media market during last night’s episode of 60 Minutes, more than a year and a half out from the election – signaling Republicans see DeSantis as vulnerable heading into 2022.

DeSantis has been blasted by officials from both parties for politicizing the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. He’s been accused of directing the state’s limited vaccine supply to his political allies and those in affluent communities, rather than to those who need them the most. The Tallahassee Democrat reported last week: “A pair of yacht clubs in Martin County and the Florida Keys even secured special vaccine access.” And in the scathing story on Sunday, 60 Minutes described an apparent pay-to-play scheme – just weeks before DeSantis announced a deal with Publix to distribute vaccines, Publix made a $100,000 donation to his PAC.

Adding to DeSantis’ troubles – a report came out this week from the American Journal of Public Health finding the state has likely been undercounting COVID-19 deaths. DeSantis has long been accused of hiding data – he sent in a team of agents to raid the home of former state data scientist Rebekah Jones, who says she was fired for refusing to manipulate Florida’s COVID-19 data.

The South Florida Sun Sentinel reported in December that the DeSantis administration “suppressed unfavorable facts, dispensed dangerous misinformation, dismissed public health professionals, and promoted the views of scientific dissenters who supported the governor’s approach to the disease.”

While DeSantis handed out vaccines to his VIP donors, ignored scientists, and hid data from the public, he opposed COVID-19 relief for Florida’s working families. As stimulus checks hit bank accounts and other relief was doled out to Floridians, DeSantis opposed the American Rescue Plan and said Florida was “treated very poorly.” Overall, the state is set to receive $17.6 billion from the ARP.

“If Ron DeSantis has done so well with COVID-19, why is the RGA desperately running TV ads to protect him more than a year and a half out from an election?” said DGA Deputy Communications Director Sam Newton. “Ron DeSantis can try to claim victory over the pandemic, but the truth is he has put politics above public health and the economy at every turn. Instead of trying to hide behind TV ads, DeSantis should explain why he continues to give vaccines to political donors and allies first, while hurting the rest of Florida.”