Anderson Cooper came down hard on Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s anti-LGBTQ history in an interview Tuesday about the Orlando gay club shooting. Bondi recently said that “anyone who attacks our LGBT community … will be gone after to the fullest extent of the law.” In his CNN interview, Cooper, who is gay*, implied that she’s made an opportunistic turnaround, using Sunday’s tragedy to score political points with LGBTQ residents and allies.
Cooper brought up the hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars her office spent defending Florida’s gay marriage ban up to the Supreme Court, during which she argued that, by seeking marriage equality, gay people were trying to “induce public harm” to the state of Florida. “Do you really think you’re a champion of the gay community?” Cooper asked. “I’ve never said I don’t like gay people,” Bondi replied. “I don’t believe gay people could do harm to the state of Florida. … My lawyer argued a case defending what the Supreme Court allowed the voters to put in our state constitution.”
The whole exchange is pretty fantastic—Cooper didn’t let up when Bondi tried to play off her office’s use of virulent, homophobic language as just another part of her job. Defending a state’s law is indeed the job of an attorney general, but Bondi’s arguments rested on the demonization of queer people, making them more demeaning than most. Cooper pointed out that had Bondi succeeded in preventing Floridian queers from marrying, many partners of shooting victims and survivors would have had no legal right to hospital visitation or posthumous decision-making. “Isn’t there a sick irony in that?” he asked.
Cooper also calls Bondi out for tweeting about “national dog month, national shelter dog appreciation day, or adopt a shelter dog month,” but not gay pride month. (To be fair, she is an infrequent tweeter.) Bondi’s indignant response is just sad: “If you look at my website now we have hands clasped together, all-different-color rainbow hands.”
I visited Bondi’s website and could not find the clasped rainbow hands.
At least Bondi has acknowledged that Pulse shooter Omar Mateen targeted LGBTQ people when so many of her Republican compatriots, including Florida Gov. Rick Scott and breathing garbage pile Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina, have tried to divorce the tragedy from anti-gay and anti-trans bigotry. Still, in her CNN interview, Bondi tried to downplay the connection. “You know what today’s about? Human beings. Today’s about victims,” she said. Cooper added: “It’s about gay and lesbian victims.”
*Update, June 16, 2016: The author, a queer person, originally referred to Cooper as “a gay” to poke fun at homophobic vernacular. The joke did not land as intended.