WASHINGTON — Calls are growing from Congressional Democrats for a federal investigation into Governor Ron DeSantis’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout in the state of Florida.
Congressman Charlie Crist (D-District 13) is calling on the Department of Justice to look into whether the distribution has benefited political allies and donors of the governor.
What You Need To Know
- Rep. Charlie Crist is calling for a Justice Department probe of Florida's COVID vaccine rollout
- Other congressional Democrats from Florida back his request
- Republican Rep. Michael Waltz says the criteria for vaccine distribution is age
- The Justice Department has not responded so far
“I can’t put my head in the sand and act like this is not happening,” Crist said in an interview with Spectrum News.
Crist, a former Florida governor, is accusing the DeSantis administration of playing favorites with political allies and donors in the state’s vaccine distribution strategy.
“Three thousand vaccines were taken by Governor DeSantis to Lakewood Ranch. It’s an affluent area, which is fine. It’s mostly white, mostly Republican,” Crist said.
“What didn’t happen is the people in the more distressed communities — Hispanic, African American — did not have that popup with the governor," Crist added. "I don’t understand it.”
Now, the incident is being investigated by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, but Crist said it should go even further.
“I think the most independent and the best place to have the investigation based is the United States Department of Justice,” he said.
DeSantis and Republican allies are defending the move, saying the decision was made in an effort to target communities with large populations of seniors.
“So many things are politicized, let’s not politicize the vaccines going out to help our seniors,” Rep. Michael Waltz (R-District 6) said.
"My understanding is that they have gone to heavily Democratic areas in Broward County in South Florida, they’ve gone to minority communities with popup sites,” he added. “The criteria is age.”
Publix made four $25,000 donations to the Friends of Ron DeSantis political committee in December. Those donations came about a month before the governor announced a state vaccine partnership with the supermarket chain. The Governor’s Office denied any connection between the donations and the vaccine program.
Other Florida Democrats on Capitol Hill support a federal probe.
“Picking and choosing amongst your favorite groups because you have a gubernatorial election in two years is very dangerous,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-District 23) said.
Crist said he has not yet heard back from the Department of Justice on whether it will investigate the vaccine rollout.