Anderson Cooper says Pam Bondi “not telling the truth” about their interview

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CNN’s Anderson Cooper responded Wednesday night to Attorney General Pam Bondi, saying her complaints about their Tuesday live interview were “factually incorrect” and she’s “either mistaken or she’s not telling the truth.”

Cooper, who came out as gay in 2012, had mentioned to Bondi “a lot of gay and lesbian people … said they thought you were being a hypocrite” for championing gay rights when she also defended the state’s same sex-marriage ban.

Both have been in Orlando after Sunday’s shooting in a gay nightclub that took 49 lives. Shooter Omar Mateen’s father has said his son was incensed by the sight of two men kissing during a recent visit to Miami. Mateen was later killed by police.

Bondi went on New York talk radio Wednesday morning to tell WOR hosts Len Berman and Todd Schnitt the interview “was supposed to be about helping victims’ families, not creating more anger and havoc and hatred.”

An incredulous Cooper, on his “Anderson Cooper 360°” program, said he asked her what she wanted to talk about and she “mentioned possible scams that arise in the wake of tragedy.”

That included price-gouging funeral homes and phony GoFundMe pages that purported to benefit victims’ families, he said.

“She warned me she had no actual specifics about any scams but I still said we would discuss it and that’s exactly what we did,” he said. “It’s not true for her to say she was booked to talk about scams in the first place.”

He then held up a sheaf of “pre-interview notes” in which Bondi’s staff told a CNN producer not to ask her about specifics of the shooting investigation or about her personal views on gun control.

Cooper explained he decided to ask her about her “contradictory” comments about the LGBT community based on other television interviews she’s done.

He also addressed her charge that CNN “cut out” the initial part of the interview on scams to focus on their controversial exchange.

“I’m told they routinely shorten the interviews (posted) online for time,” he said. “Frankly, I wish they had posted the whole thing immediately. Which they did later in the day.”

He also later replayed the entire interview during his program. His page on the CNN website, however, still also had the shortened interview clip.

“Let’s be real here,” Cooper added. “Miss Bondi’s big complaint seems to be that I asked in the first place, in the wake of a massacre that targeted gay and lesbian citizens, about her new statements about the gay community and about her old ones.”

Cooper had pointed out that her legal briefs defending Florida’s ban on gay marriage, struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court last year, included language that recognizing same sex marriages would “impose significant public harm.”

Also, “for the record, my interview was not filled with any anger,” he added. “I was respectful before the interview, I was respectful during the interview, and I was respectful after the interview.

“I don’t know Pam Bondi personally; she seems like a nice person actually,” Cooper said. “My job is to hold people accountable. If on Sunday, a politician is talking about love and embracing ‘our LGBT community,’ then I don’t think it’s unfair to look at their record and see if they have actually ever spoken that way publicly before.

“Miss Bondi is championing right now her efforts to help survivors, but the very right which allows gay spouses to bury their dead loved ones is a right that would not exist if Miss Bondi had had her way.”

A Bondi spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday night.

Here is Cooper’s Wednesday night segment. Audio of the radio interview is here. A previous story on the CNN interview is here. The original interview is here.

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.