Anderson Cooper Calls Out AG Bondi in Wake of Orlando Attack


Anderson Cooper / mroach

June 14, 2016; Media Matters

“Well, actually, if you look at my website now, we have hands clasped together, all different colored rainbow hands, people.”—Pam Bondi

So often, public figures make patently insincere public statements after terrible tragedies like the shooting of 102 people at Pulse, a club in Orlando. The shooting targeted the LGBT crowd, leaving 49 dead and even more injured. But Anderson Cooper was obviously not willing to let Florida’s attorney general, Pam Bondi, off the hook when he interviewed her the other day. Bondi has actively opposed same-sex marriage, arguably helping to prop up a hostile environment for LGBT residents of the Sunshine State—but a few days ago, she introduced clasped, rainbow-colored hands to her website.

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’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. 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: Let me tell you. 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. That’s not a law that was voted in to our state constitution by the voters of Florida. That’s what I was defending. I’ve never said I don’t like gay people, that’s ridiculous.

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: My lawyer argued a case defending what the Supreme Court allowed the voters to put in our 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. […] Are you saying you did not believe it would do harm to Florida?

BONDI: Of course not, of course not. 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.

As a side note, readers may recall from NPQ’s coverage this spring that Donald Trump had donated to Pam Bondi’s political campaign out of his charitable foundation, later calling it an administrative error.—Ruth McCambridge

  • Ben

    Not Cooper’s best moment — he doesn’t seem to understand a lawyer’s role. I don’t know Ms. Bondi nor do I care what her personal beliefs are – as AG, she has a job to do and that job is to defend the Florida Constitution, which she did by arguing in favor of Florida’s democratically passed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. What Cooper really objects to – but is too cowardly to attack – is that a majority (62%) of Floridians wanted to ban gay marriage. He should go attack them if he wants to make a point. But attacking Bondi for doing her job is ignorant and, even worse, it’s probably feigned ignorance, since he must know that his criticism of her is empty. His position is analogous to someone who believes that a public defender, by reason of his legal defense of an accused murderer, is sympathetic to that murderer. No. It’s the public defender’s job to advocate for the accused to fullest extent of the law, no matter what the charges are against his or her client. It is AG Bondi’s job to advocate for the Florida Constitution, no matter what her personal opinion is of what the Constitution says. She can either defend it or quit. It’s not her role to decide what the state constitution should say. And I would think that Cooper would know this. As for the phrase “to induce public harm” which so incensed Cooper (and which also wasn’t correct; the actual phrase she used was “impose significant public harm”), he was wrong about that, too. Bondi used that phrase in court papers arguing against a motion for a preliminary injunction. Guess what is one of the components of an argument against a preliminary injunction? Yup – that the grant of the injunction would cause harm to the public interest. In other words, for her to do her job competently, she had to use those words. She didn’t just make up that phrase – it’s a legal term of art. So, while Cooper was on his high horse, he completely forgot that he is also a reporter which, at one point in history, meant that you should strive to be objective and informed. And he was neither here. He attacked Bondi for doing her job and then further attacked her for doing it competently. Given CNN’s resources, he could have easily figured out these facts on his own before engaging in his misrepresentational grandstanding. But he chose not to. I get that this is an emotional topic for him, but CNN needs to prevent this kind of misinformed personal attack from masquerading as news.