When Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi agreed to talk live with out CNN anchor Anderson Cooper outside Orlando Regional Medical Center Tuesday, the Republican came prepared to chat about how hard she was working to help the LGBTQ community from scammers and opportunists. But instead of helping promote Bondi’s reputation, Cooper was ready with far harder questions for the Sunshine State’s top prosecutor.
“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 began.
“That’s exactly right,” Bondi chimed in with confidence.
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Yeah, but hold on, blondie. Cooper then told her about the concerns of the “gay and lesbian people” he’d been talking to in Orlando, “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 for 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?”
“Let me tell you,” Bondi responded. “When I was sworn in as attorney general, I put my hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the constitution of the state of Florida. That’s not a law. That was voted into our state constitution by the voters of Florida. That’s what I was defending. Had nothing to do — I’ve never said I don’t like gay people. That’s ridiculous.”
Cooper wasn’t about to let her off the hook so easily. He cited a 2014 state court battle in which Bondi ‘s office argued that recognizing same-sex marriage would “impose significant public harm.”
“Anderson, I don’t believe gay people could do harm to the state of Florida.”
Cooper was insistent on this point: “But you argued that in court.”
“My lawyer argued a case defending what the Supreme Court allowed the voters to put in our state constitution,” Bondi said.
So Cooper asked her directly: did she believe gays and lesbians would “do harm to Florida?” Bondi answered: “Of course not, of course not… I never said that. Those words never came out of my mouth.”
Cooper kept returning to the point: “That’s what you were arguing in court.”
“You know, no. No,” said Bondi, appearing flustered and apparently looking to change the direction of the conversation. But Cooper, who publicly came out in 2012 and has long been a champion of LGBTQ rights, wasn’t done.
“Had there been no gay marriage,” he persisted, “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?” Cooper asked Bondi.
“Let me take it a step further,”Bondi replied. “People aren’t right now who are partners and aren’t married officially aren’t able to get information so we’re trying to assist them in getting information. Because early on –”
Cooper wasn’t letting her switch back to self-promotion so slickly. “But isn’t there a sick irony you for years were fighting that very idea?”
“I was defending the constitution of what over 69 percent of the voters put in the constitution,” said Bondi said.
“But the courts, the federal courts said that’s not the constitution and you continued to fight it,” replied Cooper.
Eventually Bondi tired of the back and forth, asking Cooper: “You know what today is about? Human beings. Today’s about victims.”
“It’s about gay and lesbian victims,” said Cooper, pointedly.
Politely but firmly, Cooper then nailed her with this: “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 dug in deeper, pointing out she’d tweeted about homeless dogs but never once about Pride, until the massacre.
Watch the entire interview from CNN via YouTube, below.