As he promised on Twitter earlier this afternoon, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper took some time out of his live broadcast from Orlando on Wednesday night to respond to claims made by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi about his journalistic integrity.
During a live interview with Bondi on Monday, Cooper voiced concerns that the Republican official was engaging in hypocrisy for embracing the LGBT community following the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub after previously arguing against their civil rights in court.
“Do you really think you’re a champion of the gay community?” Cooper asked Bondi, who was clearly taken aback by the line of questioning. “I have never really seen you talk about gays and lesbians and transgender people in a positive way until now,” Cooper added later in the interview.
Bondi struggled to defend herself in the moment on CNN, but during an appearance on WOR radio Wednesday morning, she hit back at Cooper more forcefully, accusing him of choosing to “encourage anger and hate” instead of using his position as “champion for the LGBT community” to lift up victims.
“As a rule,” Cooper said he tries to avoid becoming part of the story, but after Bondi said some things on the radio that he characterized as “factually incorrect,” he decided he needed to address those claims on the air. “She’s either mistaken or not telling the truth,” he said.
After playing a clip of Bondi’s radio appearance, Cooper pushed back at her suggestion that she had been booked to speak about scams surrounding fundraising for victims, holding up his pre-interview notes as evidence. Cooper also stressed that the unedited interview aired in full on CNN and that he had no control over a cut-down version that appeared on CNN’s website after the fact.
“Let's be real here. Ms. Bondi’s big complaint seems to be that I asked in the wake of a massacre of gay and lesbian citizens about her new statements about the gay community and about her old ones,” Cooper said. “For the record, my interview was not filled with any anger. I was respectful before the interview, I was respectful during the interview, and I was respectful after the interview.” He added that he doesn’t believe Bondi has “hatred in her heart.”
When a public figure speaks about “embracing the LGBT community” in the aftermath of the shooting, Cooper said, “I don’t think it is unfair to look at their record and see if they’ve spoken that way publicly before, which I never heard her say. The fact is that Attorney General Bondi signed off on a 2014 federal court brief that claimed married gay people would ‘impose significant public harm.’”
“Ms. Bondi is championing efforts to help survivors, but the very right that allows gay spouses to bury their loved ones, that's a right that wouldn’t exist if she had her way,” he continued. “I think it is fair to ask about that.”
Since Bondi herself said she either wanted the full interview taken down or viewed in full, Cooper decided to oblige her by broadcasting the entire thing again Wednesday night.