CNN's Anderson Cooper grills Florida AG Bondi over gay rights record

Story highlights

  • Bondi in 2014 said same-sex marriage in other states would "impose significant public harm" on Florida
  • "Do you really think you are a champion of the gay community?" CNN's Anderson Cooper asked Bondi

New York (CNN)Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi on Tuesday struggled to reconcile her role in the state's fight against same-sex marriage with her response to the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

"Do you really think you are a champion of the gay community?" CNN's Anderson Cooper asked Bondi, telling her that a large portion of the LGBT community in Orlando had told him she was "being a hypocrite."
    Bondi in 2014 had argued in court filings that recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states would "impose significant public harm" to the people of Florida.
    On Tuesday, she sought to defend those words, telling Cooper she was simply seeking to uphold the state constitution.
    "That's what I was defending," she said. "It had nothing to do ... I've never said I don't like gay people. That's ridiculous."
    Cooper pressed on.
    "But you were arguing (in court) 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," he said. "Are you saying you do not believe it would do harm to Florida?"
    "Of course not, of course not," Bondi replied. "Gay people -- no, I've never said that. Those words have never come out of my mouth."
    "But that," Cooper responded in an increasingly tense exchange, "is specifically what you argued in court."
    Asked moments later whether a phone hotline she has been touting as a way for the Pulse victims' families to get information about their loved ones, including husbands and wives, would have been available to same-sex couples if marriage had not been legalized, Bondi demurred.
    "Let me take it a step further," she said. "People right now who are partners, who aren't married, officially, aren't able to get information. So we are trying to assist them in getting information."
    "But isn't there a sick irony," Cooper responded, "that you, for years, were fighting that very idea?"
    Bondi shot back that she was defending "what over 69% of the voters put in the constitution."
    Cooper, host of "Anderson Cooper 360," then asked why Bondi, who has endorsed Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential race, has spoken out so little in the past about LGBT rights issues -- and if it was "hypocritical to portray yourself as a champion of the gay community?"
    Bondi denied that she had sought out that kind of attention. When Cooper continued, saying, "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 National Dog Month and National Shelter Dog Appreciation Day or Adopt a Shelter Dog Month."
    "You know," he continued, "it is Gay Pride Month -- you've never tweeted about Gay Pride Month."
    At that, Bondi noted that, "Well, actually now if you look at my website now we have hands clasped together, all different color rainbow hands."