Anderson Cooper is covering the devastating Orlando massacre on the ground this week; on Tuesday, he delivered a righteously satisfying grilling to state attorney general Pam Bondi, whose office spent years fighting gay couples who wanted to have their marriages recognized in Florida.
Bondi is, like many elected officials, currently offering her “thoughts and prayers” to victims of the shooting and their families:
But her office also spent years and years appealing a ruling that the state’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional, almost as though they didn’t believe LGBT couples should have the same civil and legal protections as everyone else. Which is why her sudden show of support for Florida’s gay community rang a little hollow to Cooper. A transcript, via Media Matters:
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.
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: 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. Had nothing to do — I’ve never said I don’t like gay people, that’s ridiculous.
Bondi did indeed use the words “significant public harm,” saying that’s what gay marriage would do to the people of Florida.
Cooper asked if there wasn’t maybe a “sick irony” to the fact that Bondi fought for a set of restrictions that would’ve prevented gay people from marrying, and is now on television telling gay couples how they can access information about their spouses through a state-run hotline:
COOPER: 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 it on the air, had there been no gay marriage, had there been 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 probably even to visit in the hospital here. Isn’t there a sick irony in that?
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.
It was deeply satisfying to see Cooper force Bondi to answer for some of Florida’s anti-gay policies. His coverage from Florida has, in general, been as excellent as such a horrific set of circumstances will allow. In a gut-wrenching segment Monday night, Cooper began his live coverage by naming each of the victims who have been identified, becoming visibly emotional as he spoke.