Just moments after Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi praised Anderson Cooper for highlighting the names of the victims in the Pulse nightclub shooting on his show Monday night, the CNN anchor turned things around and accused her of “hypocrisy” when it comes to the LGBT Floridians who were targeted by the gunman.
“I saw you the other day saying that anyone who attacks the LGBT community—our LGBT community, you said—will be gone after to the full extent of the law,” Cooper said during his interview with Bondi live from Orlando this afternoon.
“I talked to a lot of gay and lesbian people here yesterday who are not fans of yours and said that they thought you were being a hypocrite, that you for years have fought—you’ve basically gone after gay people, said that in court that gay people simply by fighting for marriage equality were trying to do harm to the people of Florida.”
“Do you really think you’re a champion of the gay community?” Cooper asked her point blank.
Rather than answer Cooper’s question directly, Bondi pivoted to say that her opposition to same-sex marriage had only to do with the oath she took to uphold the laws in her state. “I’ve never said I don’t like gay people,” she insisted.
It was back in May 2014 when Bondi filed a brief in which her office argued that “disrupting Florida’s existing marriage laws would impose significant public harm.” Cooper asked her on Tuesday if she worried that such language could “send a message” to people like the Orlando shooter, who may already have “bad ideas in mind” about gay people.
Bondi denied that she ever believed gay marriage would cause “harm” to the citizens of her state. “Those words never came out of my mouth,” she told Cooper. But as the anchor shot back, “That’s what you argued in court.”
“The hotline that you’ve been talking about on television, which allows family members and spouses of the dead to get information, which is incredibly important, and I appreciate you talking about on the air,” Cooper added, “had there been no gay marriage, 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 to visit in the hospital here. Isn’t there a sick irony in that?”
While Bondi now insisted that she is now going ever further than that, trying to assist unmarried partners of victims in their efforts to gain information, Cooper reminded her that for years she fought against the “very idea” that any same-sex spouses should receive those rights.
“Is it hypocritical to portray yourself as a champion of the gay community when—I’m just reflecting what gay people told me—they don’t see you as this?” Cooper asked. When Bondi continued to push back on this assertion, he added, “It’s just that, I will say I have never really seen you talk about gays and lesbians and transgender people in a positive way until now.”
Earlier this month, NBC News reported that Bondi’s failed fight against marriage equality would cost Florida taxpayers nearly $500,000.