MIAMI (CBSMiami) -- U.S. Representative Charlie Crist sent a letter to Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson, asking the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate favoritism concerns after Gov. Ron DeSantis opened a pop-up COVID-19 vaccine site in wealthy Florida neighborhoods.
Gov. DeSantis denies any wrongdoing, but Crist, a former Florida governor himself, disagrees. He and other Democrat leaders, including Agriculture Commission Nikki Fried, claim the Manatee County site and others target wealthy retirement communities with political connections to DeSantis.
DeSantis has always said seniors 65 and up would be a priority in COVID vaccination distribution efforts, but when a reporter last week, questioned why he choose Lakewood Ranch, the governor replied, "Would they rather us send it to other counties? "It was a choice about where is there a high concentration of seniors," DeSantis continued. "It wasn't choosing one ZIP code over another."
He also said, "If Manatee County doesn't like us doing this, we are totally fine with putting this in counties that want it. We're totally happy to do that. So anyone that's saying that, let us know. If you want us to send to Sarasota next time or Charlotte or Pasco or wherever, let us know, we're happy to do it," he said.
He added, "And so, you know, there's going to be folks that are going to complain about getting more vaccines. You know, I'll tell you what, I mean, I wouldn't be complaining. I'd be thankful that we're able to do it," he said. "Because you know what? We didn't need to do this at all. We saw a need. We want to get the numbers up for seniors. And so the logical thing was, let's go to where there's a high concentration of seniors."
Democrats latched on to the Republican governor's comments and said he was making threats to withhold vaccines if he was criticized. Crist said Lakewood Ranch's parent company is owned by a major Republican donor who had given $900,000 to DeSantis's political committee.
"Defeating the COVID-19 pandemic must be our top priority. Given the enormous latitude Governors have over vaccine distribution, it would be unconscionable for political corruption to trump both fairness and the best medical guidance," Crist wrote. "These are literally life and death decisions. While I am anxious for every Floridian, in every community, to get the vaccine as soon as possible, it should be don based on fairness, not political connection."
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