- The Magazine
—Anderson Cooper, grilling Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi on CNN.
In the aftermath of Sunday’s attacks in Orlando, Bondi joined other officials at a press briefing, where she painted herself as someone who would fight for LGBT people.
“Anyone who attacks our LGBT community, anyone who attacks anyone in our state, will be gone after to the fullest extent of the law,” she told reporters. “We need to look out for each other, we need to take care of each other.”
After widespread criticism on Twitter, where users took her to task for trying to support the LGBT community after years spent opposing marriage equality and using anti-LGBT rhetoric, Cooper challenged her in an interview (transcript via Media Matters).
ANDERSON COOPER: I want to ask you, I saw you the other day saying that anyone who attacks the LGBT community, our LGBT community, you said, will be gone after with the full extent of the law.
PAM BONDI: That’s exactly right.
COOPER: I talked to a lot of gay and lesbian people here yesterday who are not fans of yours and who said that they thought you were being a hypocrite, that you for years have fought — you 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. 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 responded by saying that she promised to “uphold the constitution of the state” when she was sworn in as AG, which included Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage. “I’ve never said I don’t like gay people, that’s ridiculous,” she added.
COOPER: But do you worry about using language accusing gay people of trying to do harm to the people of Florida when doesn’t that send a message to some people who might have bad ideas in mind?
BONDI: Anderson, I don’t believe gay people could do harm to the state of Florida. We’re human beings.
COOPER: But you argued that in court.
Bondi did indeed say in court that recognizing same-sex marriages performed out of state would “impose significant public harm.” She argued to Cooper that it was just a case of her lawyers defending the state constitution.
COOPER: Right, but you were arguing that gay marriage, if there was gay marriage, if there was same-sex marriage, that would do harm to the people of Florida, to Florida society.
BONDI: That it was constitutional to put that in the constitution.
COOPER: Are you saying you did not believe it would do harm to Florida?
BONDI: Of course not, of course not. Gay people — no, I’ve never said that. Those words have never came out of my mouth.
COOPER: But that is specifically what you were arguing in court.
Cooper then switched tracks, focusing on hospital access and a hotline that had been set-up to provide information to family members and spouses of the victims. He pointed out that, if Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage — which Bondi visibly defended — hadn’t been overturned (and then rendered null by last year’s SCOTUS decision), 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.”
“Isn’t there a sick irony in that?” he asked.
BONDI: Let me take it a step farther. 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 we only have 24 people —
COOPER: Isn’t there a sick irony that you for years were fighting that very idea?
BONDI: I was defending the constitution of what over 69 percent of the voters put in the constitution.
Bondi then attempted to divert attention from her homophobic record as AG.
BONDI: Well Anderson, we rushed to get it to the Supreme Court. You know what today is about? Human beings. Today’s about victims.
COOPER: It is about gay and lesbian victims.
BONDI: It sure is. LGBT victims.
Cooper again asked Bondi if it was hypocritical to portray herself as some sort of LGBT champion in the wake of the attacks.
COOPER: I’m just wondering is it hypocritical to portray yourself as a champion of the gay community when — I’m just reflecting what a lot of gay people have told me, they don’t see you as that.
BONDI: Anderson, I’m not portraying myself as anything other than trying to help human beings who have lost their lives.
To her credit, Bondi then shed light on a rather horrifying practice that had been occurring in the wake of the shootings.
BONDI: This morning, you know what I’ve been doing? Trying to fight with a funeral home for overcharging family members.
COOPER: That’s sickening.
BONDI: To bury their loved ones. I’m not championing anything other than Floridians. That’s what this is about.
But while Bondi was doing her best to sound caring, Cooper retorted with hard facts about her personal record on LGBT people.
COOPER: I have never really seen you talk about gays and lesbians and transgender people in a positive way until now. 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. It is gay pride month. You’ve never even tweeted about gay pride month.
BONDI: Well actually if you look at my website now, we have hands clasped together, all different colored rainbow hands, people.
COOPER: So you just put that up now.
BONDI: Yeah I did.
These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!