Wednesday, July 18, 2018
Politics

Carlton: Pam Bondi deserved Anderson Cooper's sharp questions after Orlando shooting

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi found herself in a tough spot this week — one she spent a lot of time in Tallahassee creating.

Bondi was in Orlando, a city shell-shocked and heartsick after a horrible mass shooting. As the world knows by now, 49 people were murdered in a gay nightclub by a man with an assault-style rifle and God only knows what strain of madness and hate running through his brain.

So yes, you could expect people elected to run Florida to be on hand with help, empathy and a sense of leadership, hopefully without a whole lot of blatant politics in the mix.

But with Bondi came baggage.

You'll recall she was front and center in Florida's narrow-minded and ultimately doomed fight against gay marriage. She made it clear she believed maintaining a ban against people wedding whom they want was worth considerable time, effort and tax dollars. She fought on even as it became obvious we were a nation evolving. Later, in a little insult to injury, she appeared to be trying to avoid paying the full legal bill from her failed fight.

In Orlando days after the mass tragedy, Bondi stepped up for an interview with well-known CNN newsman Anderson Cooper, who is, by the way, gay. They spoke briefly about consumer concerns like post-tragedy donation scams. Cooper, however, had questions that went to the heart of Bondi being there.

Specifically: Wasn't it an act of hypocrisy?

Here is what he said: "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 are being a hypocrite, that you for years have fought — you've basically gone after gay people. (You) said 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.

"Is it hypocritical to portray yourself as a champion of the gay community?"

If Bondi was surprised, she should not have been.

Court documents filed by her office in the yearslong battle against gay marriage contained a line that got a lot of attention. It said changing Florida's marriage laws "would impose significant public harm." It did not say this was merely the defense of a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage and the AG's obligation, as Bondi's office later contended.

It said that allowing gays and lesbians to marry would significantly damage our state.

And so came Cooper's sharpest and most important question:

Didn't she worry that using language accusing gays of trying to do harm to the people of Florida could send a message to some people who night have ill intent against gays?

(For perspective, here is a take on that theme from Bishop Robert Lynch of the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg on religion's role in targeting — usually verbally — gays, lesbians and transgender people. "Attacks today on LGBT men and women often plant the seed of contempt, then hatred, which can ultimately lead to violence," he wrote in a blog post this week.)

In the interview, Bondi defended herself. She said she swore on a Bible to uphold the Constitution. She said she never said she didn't like gay people and doesn't believe they do harm to Florida. Later, she said the interview was an ambush.

But being a public official means answering questions related to how you do your taxpayer-paid job, even when you'd prefer not to.

The exchange illustrated yet again the two Pam Bondis — the hometown Tampa prosecutor known for empathy for crime victims and shelter dogs, and the person who went to Tallahassee and fought against health care for the poor.

In the interview, Bondi was asked if, moving forward, she saw herself as a vocal champion for Florida's gays and lesbians.

We are all human beings, she said. "They are citizens, just like anyone else," she said. "Of course," she said.

Which would have been better to hear before now.

Sue Carlton can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
At St. Pete rally, protesters call Trump’s remarks on Russia ‘treason’

At St. Pete rally, protesters call Trump’s remarks on Russia ‘treason’

ST. PETERSBURG — Linda and Jack Miller braved the humidity at Demens Landing on Wednesday night for a simple reason:"Treason," said Linda Miller, 66.The St. Petersburg couple joined more than 100 protesters toting signs, pins and megaphones at the "T...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Meet the man who might have brought on the age of ‘downloadable guns’

Meet the man who might have brought on the age of ‘downloadable guns’

During the summer of 2012, Cody Wilson hung around J&J, a car-repair shop run by two "goofy" guys in their late 20s. The Austin warehouse was crowded with engine blocks, car parts and Pelican boxes that never seemed to have been opened, but the 24-ye...
Published: 07/18/18
‘She was like a novelty’: How alleged Russian agent Maria Butina gained access to elite conservative circles

‘She was like a novelty’: How alleged Russian agent Maria Butina gained access to elite conservative circles

WASHINGTON - For nearly five years, the young Russian political-science student was an unusual fixture at the most important events of the U.S. conservative movement.Maria Butina, who was indicted this week on charges of being a covert Russian agent,...
Published: 07/18/18
PolitiFact: Fact-checking the Donald Trump-Vladimir Putin summit

PolitiFact: Fact-checking the Donald Trump-Vladimir Putin summit

President Donald Trump and President Vladimir Putin made inaccurate statements to the media following their one-on-one talks in Helsinki about election meddling, global terrorism and nuclear nonproliferation.Here’s a rundown of our fact-checks.Trump:...
Published: 07/17/18
Obama gives Trump sharp rebuke in Mandela address on values

Obama gives Trump sharp rebuke in Mandela address on values

JOHANNESBURG — Former U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday took aim at "strongman politics" in his highest-profile speech since leaving office, urging people around the world to respect human rights and other values now under threat in an imp...
Published: 07/17/18
Romano: Excuse me Gov. Scott, but you’re a hypocrite

Romano: Excuse me Gov. Scott, but you’re a hypocrite

Hypocrisy, thy name is Rick Scott.And, yes, I owe Shakespeare an apology.But I think Florida’s governor owes all of us an apology.This isn’t about one man’s opinion, and it isn’t about philosophical differences. This is about a politician who is publ...
Published: 07/17/18
Trump questions US intel, not Putin, on Russia 2016 meddling

Trump questions US intel, not Putin, on Russia 2016 meddling

HELSINKI — Standing next to Russia’s Vladimir Putin, President Donald Trump openly questioned his own intelligence agencies’ conclusions that Moscow was to blame for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election to Trump’s benefit and seemed to accept Putin’s i...
Published: 07/16/18

Pasco Political Notebook

Hunter, Murphy speak to Democratic ClubThe Trinity Democratic Club will host candidates Chris Hunter (running for U.S. Congress in District 12) and Amanda Murphy (running for state Senate in District 16) as guest speakers at its meeting at 6:30 p.m. ...
Published: 07/16/18
Giant pork pile awaits Americans as trade wars risk exports

Giant pork pile awaits Americans as trade wars risk exports

Donald Trump’s trade wars are making pork a bargain.American production is poised to reach an all-time high this year, and output is forecast to surge again in 2019. The supply boom comes as tariffs from China and Mexico threaten to curb export deman...
Published: 07/16/18
Sacha Baron Cohen still knows how to punk America, but his new show erodes what little trust we have left

Sacha Baron Cohen still knows how to punk America, but his new show erodes what little trust we have left

Sacha Baron Cohen’s return to incognito trickery is, in current conditions, a little like pouring rubbing alcohol into the nation’s open wounds.Employing the same ingenious commitment and subterfuge that made him famous in the guise of Ali G., Borat ...
Published: 07/15/18