When asked whether Mister Rogers would have approached the situation the same way the activists did, one of the protesters said, “I’m not Mister Rogers.”
A group of protesters accosted Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi outside the screening of the new documentary about Mister Rogers at the Tampa Theatre on Friday night, questioning her about her recent actions on health care policy and her stance on immigration.
A video of the confrontation, taken by progressive activist Timothy Heberlein of Organize Florida, shows several people shouting down Bondi as she leaves the theater escorted by law enforcement after seeing Won’t You Be My Neighbor.
Pam Bondi attempted to attend a screening of the Mister Rogers documentary a day after announcing her plan to end protections for health care consumers with pre-existing conditions. Here, via @timintampa, is what happened. pic.twitter.com/zMLrSayS8M
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) June 23, 2018
“What would Mister Rogers think about you and your legacy in Florida? Taking away health insurance from people with pre-existing conditions, Pam Bondi!” Maria José Chapa, a labor organizer, can be heard yelling to Bondi in the video. “Shame on you!”
“You’re a horrible person!” another protester shouts.
Reached by phone on Saturday, Bondi said the sudden protest didn’t square with the lessons imparted by Fred Rogers.
“We were in a movie about anti-bullying and practicing peace and love and tolerance and accepting of people for their differences,” Bondi said. “That’s what Mister Rogers is all about. We all believe in free speech, but there’s a big difference there.”
The organizers didn’t plan to confront Florida’s top law enforcement official Friday night, Heberlein told the Times in an interview. But when one of them spotted Bondi in the ticket line before the film, he said they knew they had to say something.
According to Chapa, one of the organizers confronted Bondi before the movie over her February decision to join in a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act — a move seen by many progressives as a threat to people with pre-existing conditions covered under the law.