On Wednesday night, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper spent almost 14 minutes defending himself against Florida attorney general Pam Bondi’s complaints about how he “grilled” her (a word CNN even used) about being an anti-gay politician in the wake of the Orlando mass shooting. Cooper lamely claimed he was “respectful” before, during and after the interview and denied he was showing anger....and in the denial showed all the same disrespect and anger (and disingenousness) he brought to the original interview.
A quick Google search would tell Mr. Respectable that action verbs were in the headlines: Cooper "grills," "nails," "scolds" and "destroys" Bondi! It wasn't exactly a softball session like asking Hillary if there's still a vast right-wing conspiracy.
Bondi told WOR radio (as CNN replayed) “I've been getting horrible hatred, e-mails and texts now based on Anderson's story. So that was just sad because he had a real opportunity to bring our country together yesterday and talk about what's right and what's good instead of a story filled with anger.”
Bondi clearly (and wrongly) expected this was going to be a Moment of National Unity interview where everyone could express horror and sympathy as they stood in front of a hospital housing the wounded. Instead, the gay anchorman decided it was time to get angry about the gay agenda, and imply she had never acknowledged the humanity of gays before. But hey, that’s not “anger,” because Cooper didn’t raise his voice. It was just Cooper doing his job “to hold people accountable.” Here’s his little editorial defending his own decency (and his exposing her apparent inhumanity as a conservative):
COOPER: A story filled with anger? So, for the record, my interview was not filled with any anger. 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, she seems like a nice person actually. I don't think she has hatred in her heart, but what I think doesn't matter. It's my job to hold people accountable and on Sunday they talk about embracing, quote, "our LGBT community," I don't think it is unfair to look at their record and see if they've spoken that way publicly before which I've never heard her say.
The fact is that Attorney General Bondi signed off on 2014 federal court brief that claimed married gay people would quote, "impose significant public harm." Harm? She spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money, gay and straight taxpayer money, trying to keep gays and lesbians from getting the right to marry. Now, good people can and do disagree on that issue. Everyone has a right to their own opinion, thank goodness, but Ms. Bondi is championing right now her efforts to help survivors for the very right allows gay spouses to bury their dead loved ones, that's a right that wouldn't exist if Ms. Bondi had had her way. I think it is fair to ask about that. There is an irony.
There’s an “irony” in sympathizing with gay people when they’ve just been shot dead. Apparently, Cooper thinks the un-ironic homophobe should express delight? The most dishonest thing Cooper said above is "everyone has a right to their opinion" and " good people can disagree," which he clearly does not believe. Otherwise, he wouldn't be protesting that Bondi never tweeted out support for Gay Pride Month. Apparently, everyone must tweet their support for Gay Pride Month, or they shouldn't express regrets after a mass shooting.
It should not be shocking that Bondi found this to be an odd time for an ambush. It should also not be shocking that it resulted in Bondi being bombed with hatred on the Internet. Cooper bizarrely claimed "I don't think anyone should send angry, mean messages to her or anyone else, but that isn't what I have seen here these last few days. What I have seen here among gays and lesbians here is not hate and it is not anger. I have seen love and unity."
It was Cooper himself that flashed the anger and shredded the unity.
Earlier, Cooper squabbled with Bondi and her press aides about what they had agreed they would talk about and not talk about in the interview. Bondi complained that while they started by talking about insurance scams, but after that interview aired live in the afternoon, Cooper and CNN edited that out for the "grilling" part on gays so that people could play that over and over online.
COOPER: Now, Attorney General Bondi is correct when she says we spoke just before we went on the air live as I do with most guests, I ask them as a courtesy what they want to talk about. She mentioned possible scams that awake in the rise of tragedies, shady funerals homes she mentions and GoFundMe pages that her office were trying to verify as legit. Now, that’s important. I said to her great, let’s talk about it. In fact, I said let's start with that, let’s lead off the interview with that and that’s what I’ll start with. She warned me she had no specifics about scams but I still said we would discuss it and that's exactly what we did, so that's the only reason that topic ever came up in our discussion.
But it is not true for her to say she was booked to talk about scams in the first place. Now, you might ask how do I know this. Here are the pre-interview notes compiled by a CNN producer based on what Bondi's office said she could discuss and nowhere were scams mentioned. In fact, right here, her office said she would talk about the investigation process, but she couldn't get into any specifics beyond what the FBI already said. She could say it is critical for law enforcement to be allowed to do their job properly and to avoid missteps. She also said she could talk about the fact she's meeting with victims' families, trying to help them, but she also said she would not talk about gun control or any issues surrounding gun control, so that's all in the notes, so instead of following what her office suggested, I chose to ask about comments she made on numerous other television appearances in the last few days, she’s been on a lot of TV, comments which seemed contradictory to her record in dealing with gays and lesbians in the state.
What Cooper’s admitting here is he sandbagged Bondi with his gay crusade, which in retrospect she should have seen coming. The CNN producers did not tell Bondi’s press people that Cooper would be grilling her on gay marriage. It’s a free country, and reporters can upset a politician’s expectations about what was going to be discussed. But they shouldn’t be surprised when the politician complains in the aftermath of a mass shooting in a gay nightclub.
And we shouldn’t be surprised about the deep dishonesty of Cooper denying he's an advocate for the gay Left. The New York Times called it a "touch of empathy" in a headline and wrote without sarcasm that this kind of bias was rare among national anchors:
Mr. Cooper, who is gay, has seemed to embrace an advocacy role rarely seen among top network anchors, blending on-the-ground reporting with a distinctly personal and empathetic touch.
Until recently, Mr. Cooper did not discuss his sexuality in public. On Tuesday, for what he said was the first time he could remember, he referred to himself as gay on the air.
“As gay people, we share strands of a common bond,” he said during the final moments of his prime-time broadcast. “If this killer hoped to set us backwards, to make us live in fear, I think he’s made a sickening mistake.”
Speaking on Wednesday from his satellite truck in Orlando, Mr. Cooper insisted, emphatically, that he was no activist. “I’m not trying to push an agenda,” he said. “I’m not here to be an advocate, railing at the top of my lungs at injustices; that’s the role other people have.”
Politi-Fact could call that PANTS ON FIRE.