A day after fighting back tears while reading the names of the 49 victims of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, CNN’s Anderson Cooper challenged the state’s attorney general over her record on LGBT rights.
In the wake of Sunday’s massacre, Pam Bondi, Florida’s attorney general, vowed that “anyone who attacks our LGBT community” would be “gone after to the fullest extent of the law.”
On Tuesday, Cooper asked Bondi if such a statement was hypocritical, given her opposition to same-sex marriage before it became legal. The conversation soon became uncomfortable, as Cooper pressed her on the topic.
“You’ve basically gone after gay people,” Cooper said, “said that in court: That gay people, simply by fighting for marriage equality, were trying to do harm to the people of Florida. To induce ‘public harm,’ I believe, was the term you used in court. Do you really think you’re a champion of the gay community?”
Bondi said she was merely defending the laws that were on the books in the Sunshine State.
“When I was sworn in as attorney general, I put my hand on the Bible and was sworn to uphold the constitution of the state of Florida,” Bondi said. “That’s what I was defending. Had nothing to do — I’ve never said I don’t like gay people. That’s ridiculous.”
— Dylan Stableford (@stableford) June 14, 2016
Cooper, who came out publicly in 2012, pressed Bondi, saying that she had argued in court that gay marriage would “impose significant public harm.”
“Anderson, I don’t believe gay people could do harm to the state of Florida,” Bondi said. “My lawyer argued a case defending what the Supreme Court allowed the voters to put in our state constitution.”
She compared her opposition to same-sex marriage to the debate over medical marijuana.
“What we argued was: It was in the constitution of the state of Florida,” Bondi said. “Let me give you an example: medical marijuana. A 12-year-old could get it if it passed. We took that to the Supreme Court because of that language.”
A proposed amendment to allow medical use of marijuana, which was on the Florida ballot in 2014, narrowly failed.
“But if that passed, I would defend that as well, because it’s my job to defend what’s in the constitution of the state of Florida,” Bondi said. “That’s what it was about.”
Cooper then pressed Bondi on the hotline that state officials have been directing victims’ family members and spouses to call to get information.
“Had there been no gay marriage, had there been no same-sex marriage, you do realize that spouses — there would be no spouses — that boyfriends and girlfriends of the dead would not be able to get information and would not be able probably even to visit in the hospital here,” Cooper said. “Isn’t there a sick irony in that?”
Bondi insisted there was not.
“You know what today is about? Human beings. Today’s about victims,” Bondi said.
“It’s about gay and lesbian victims,” Cooper interjected.
“It sure is,” she replied. “LGBT victims.”
Cooper asked if it was hypocritical for Bondi to portray herself as a champion of the gay community when “a lot of gay people have told me they don’t see you as that.”
“Anderson, I’m not portraying myself as anything but trying to help human beings who have lost their lives, who are behind us, right now, in hospital beds, who have family members who aren’t getting the services they need,” Bondi responded. “This morning, you know what I’ve been doing? Trying to fight with a funeral home for overcharging family members to bury their loved ones. I’m not championing anything other than Floridians. That’s what this is about. We are about human beings.”
The flaxen-haired newsman ended the interview by pointing out that he had not heard or seen her support for the LGBT community before Sunday’s attack.
“I read your Twitter history for the last year and I saw you tweeting about, you know, ‘National Dog Month’ and ‘National Shelter Dog Appreciation Day’ or ‘Adopt a Shelter Dog Month,'” Cooper said. “It is Gay Pride Month. You never even tweeted about Gay Pride Month.”
“Well, actually, if you look at my website now, we have hands clasped together, all different-colored, rainbow hands,” Bondi said.
“So you just put that up now?” Cooper asked.
“Yeah I did, just after this horrible tragedy, absolutely,” Bondi replied.