Ag Chief Fried Wants FBI To Investigate DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and state health officials are coming under deeper scrutiny amid revelations that seniors in a wealthy enclave in Key Largo received hundreds of life-saving vaccinations as early as mid-January.
“If you’re 65 and up, [I’m] not worried about your income bracket; I’m worried about your age bracket,” the governor said. “It’s the age, not the income that shows the risk. And so if they were able to go to a community that’s heavily senior, and vaccinate people, that’s very, very, good.”
Speaking in Crystal River last week, DeSantis fired back at a story in the Miami Herald, which said a wealthy neighborhood located in the Florida Keys had received the vaccine ahead of other areas in exchange for hefty campaign donations.
“It was a really, really poorly executed piece; and what they’re trying to do, they’re trying to concoct, manufacture a narrative that they don’t have the facts to back it up. And that’s a perfect example of that. So it was a major failure.”
Last month, the governor responded to criticism from county officials who criticized his vaccine distribution plan.
“So, anyone that’s saying that -- if you want [us] to send to Sarasota [County] next time, or Charlotte, or Pasco or wherever -- let us know;’ we’re happy to do it,” said DeSantis. “There’s going to be folks that are going to complain about getting more vaccine. I wouldn’t be complaining, I’d be thankful that we were able to do it. Because -- you know what -- we didn’t have to do this at all.”
“Getting to the front of the line because you have access — and you have the financial ability — it’s just unacceptable; and I will not stand for it,” said Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the lone statewide-elected Democrat.
She’s calling on the FBI’s Public Corruption Unit to investigate the allocation of vaccines under the governor.
“That pattern is simply just too clear to avoid; give a campaign contribution, big dollars, get special access to vaccines,” Fried said. “Ahead of seniors and so many of our residents here in the state of Florida who are scared and who are wanting these vaccines. If this isn’t public corruption, I don’t know what is.”
About 1,200 residents of an upper-scale Enclave in the Florida Keys, says Fried, went to the head of line for vaccines in January.
“First, there was an $85,000 campaign contribution from 17 of the donors inside this enclave; followed by a $250,000 check from a former GOP governor from Illinois,” Fried said. “This is not a coincidence; this is not an accident.”
Gov. DeSantis contends that a local hospital — not the state — was behind the vaccinations of more than 1,200 residents of the exclusive Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo.
“The state was not involved in that; I mean literally, the [Miami Herald] is just trying to indulge in conspiracy theories,” said DeSantis. “It was done through one of the hospital systems that had vaccine. They thought it made sense to go and do 65 and plus; and I think it was a smart decision to do that.”
Monroe County officials said the affluent club’s medical center received the vaccines as part of the governor’s program to vaccinate communities’ people 65 and older. Fried isn’t buying it.
“I will not stand by and let our vaccines being used as political gain; to go and to be auctioned to the highest bidders, while so many of our Floridians are suffering,” Fried said.
Part of that investigation could involve what appears to be a major racial disparity in distributing the shots.
“Fifty-one percent of the vaccines have been distributed to white parts of our population; and just 11% to Hispanic, and 5.8 to our Black communities,” said Fried. “Someone has got to get to the bottom of this.”
And Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is not alone in her call to the feds. Florida Senate Minority Leader Gary Farmer is asking the Department of Justice to probe what Farmer calls “potential wrongdoing” by the Republican governor.