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Is Pam Bondi auditioning for Fox News while still working for Florida taxpayers?

Bondi sought ethics commission approval before spending three days co-hosting “The Five,” a news talk show.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi discusses the "nanny state" on Fox News' The Five.
Published Aug. 27, 2018
Updated Aug. 28, 2018

Pam Bondi is still the attorney general of Florida, at least for another four months.

But last week Bondi had a different job: co-host of Fox News' The Five. She subbed on the news talk show not once, not twice, but three times, appearing as a panelist Wednesday through Friday.

The situation was so unprecedented for a sitting elected official that Bondi first sought guidance from the Florida Commission on Ethics, the government body that oversees conduct of public officials. Tallahassee lawyer Richard Coates "spoke to the Commission on behalf of the Attorney General" prior to her appearing on the show, her spokeswoman Kylie Mason said.

Mason didn't say what Coates told the commission or how it responded, but in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times, Fox News said that the ethics commission "cleared Pam Bondi to appear as a co-host of The Five and travel to New York."

But on Monday, commission spokeswoman Kerrie Stillman said no opinion was rendered. She said Coates and ethics commission general counsel Chris Anderson discussed by phone previous commission rulings on whether publicity could be considered a gift to a public official. Anderson "did not express a view as to whether Mr. Coates' scenario would or would not violate the Code of Ethics," Stillman said.

Bondi was not paid and state dollars were not spent on the trip, Mason said. Florida taxpayers pay Bondi's $128,971 salary.

Asked why Bondi thinks it is appropriate for one of Florida's top elected officials to moonlight as a cable television host, Mason said: "She is often on national news. The attorney general is always working, she is available 24/7 and works even when out of the state."

Call it an audition of sorts for Bondi, who wraps up her two terms as attorney general in January. Cable television is often considered one of several potential landing spots for Bondi, according to her friends and political allies.

Bondi is no stranger to the news network and its conservative programs. She has made dozens of appearances on Fox News programs over the years, sometimes to talk about Florida or as a legal expert, other times just as a political commentator.

But this was different. Usually those appearances are short segments, lasting a few minutes. This time, Bondi wasn't just a guest. She was the co-host of an hour-long program, where the five panelists (get it, The Five?) dive into highly partisan debates.

She introduced segments, guffawed with co-hosts, bashed liberals and the so-called nanny state and defended President Donald Trump after his lawyer pleaded guilty to campaign crimes.

It meant spending three days in New York City.

It doesn't appear to be regular practice for The Five to turn over one of its panel spots to a sitting elected official. The network didn't respond when asked of other examples.

Psyched about The Five today!

A post shared by Pam Bondi (@pambondi) on

And what did the Florida's top legal officer discuss during her cable tryout? Not the state's renewed fight over stand your ground or a private beach law that has everyone confused (neither of which she has weighed in on). Nor the ongoing opioid crisis, for which she is spearheading a lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies.

Instead, Bondi opined on topics ranging from the Robert Mueller investigation and the murder of an Iowa jogger to new animal cracker boxes, whether kids should walk the dog alone and colleges that ban snowball fights.

"I have not had much experience with snowballs," Bondi said on the latter. "But I mean we can only go … so far. We're taking the fun out of everything and we're going over the top. C'mon."

While at Fox News studios, she also appeared on Sean Hannity's show. Hannity congratulated Bondi on the co-hosting position.

Bondi did weigh in on one much-discussed Florida issue: Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera, the U.S. House candidate who claims she was abducted by aliens as a child.

"She would want to be in charge of the Space Force program," Bondi said Friday, alluding to the new military division Trump plans to start.

Whether this turns into a full-time job remains to be seen. If Bondi knows what's next for her, she isn't saying. Earlier this year she told the Times she has two potential avenues she is exploring, but hasn't even told close friends what those are.

Mason wouldn't say whether Bondi has more co-hosting duties on her calendar.

MORE ON BONDI: Think you know what's next for Pam Bondi? You have no idea.

Bondi did break some news while on the set. If she ever runs for president, Bondi announced who her running mate would be:

"Pat Benatar."

This story was updated with comment from the Florida Commission on Ethics.

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