March 1st, 2010
07:22 PM ET
4 years ago

Republican senator gives journalist the middle finger

An angry Sen. Jim Bunning refused to answer questions from CNN and ABC News Monday afternoon. An ABC News producer who was there says Bunning gave him the middle finger in response to a question.
An angry Sen. Jim Bunning refused to answer questions from CNN and ABC News Monday afternoon. An ABC News producer who was there says Bunning gave him the middle finger in response to a question.

Washington (CNN) - An angry Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Kentucky, refused to answer questions from CNN and ABC News Monday afternoon about his decision to block a bill that would extend unemployment benefits to millions of jobless Americans. An ABC News producer who was there says Bunning gave him the middle finger in response to a question.

CNN's Dana Bash and a CNN camera crew tried to get Bunning to comment more extensively on the controversy on Monday. But the senator "got very angry," she said.

"Excuse me," the agitated senator told Bash while entering a Senate elevator. "I need to get to the (Senate) floor."

Moments earlier, and ABC News reporter and crew also attempted to question Bunning as he was getting on the Senate elevator.

A posting on the ABC News website details the exchange: "Excuse me! This is a Senator's only elevator!" Bunning responded as he was asked a question by ABC's Jonathan Karl.

"Excuse me!" Bunning yelled. "I've got to go to the floor!"

ABC News producer Z. Bryon Wolf spotted Bunning as he exited his office. When Wolf asked Bunning to stay and talk to cameras, Wolf says Bunning walked away and shot his middle finger over his head.

CNN reached out to Bunning’s office for comment. A spokesman for the senator said "I don't have any comment," when asked about the obscene gesture.

On the floor of the Senate, top Democrats tore into the Republican from Kentucky for blocking the unemployment benefits extension. The Senate adjourned last week without approving extensions of cash and health insurance benefits for the unemployed after Bunning blocked the measure by insisting that Congress first pay for the $10 billion package.

Bunning, who is retiring at the end of this year, said he doesn't oppose extending the programs - he just doesn't want to add to the deficit. Democrats claim the bill is an emergency measure that should not be subject to new rules requiring that legislation not expand the deficit.

As a result of the Senate's inaction, many jobless people starting Monday were no longer able to apply for federal unemployment benefits or the COBRA health insurance subsidy.

After refusing to talk to ABC and CNN, Bunning took to the Senate floor to bemoan what he characterized as a growing lack of fiscal responsibility.

"If we can't find $10 billion to pay for something that we all support, we will never pay for anything on the floor of the U.S. Senate," he said.

Bunning's remarks prompted an immediate response from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada.

"Where was my friend from Kentucky when we had two wars that were unpaid for during the Bush administration?" he asked. Reid also mentioned the Bush administration tax cuts, which Democrats have said are unpaid for.

"We don't need lectures here on debt" from the GOP, he said. "There are poor people all over America who are desperate today."

Since the controversy over the $10 billion package started late last week, this appears to be Bunning's second outburst. According to two Democratic aides on the Senate floor Thursday night, Bunning muttered "tough s-" as Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, criticized Bunning's stance on the package.

–CNN's Dana Bash, Ted Barrett, Alan Silverleib and Paul Steinhauser contributed to this story.


Filed under: Jim Bunning • Popular Posts • Senate
soundoff (414 Responses)
  1. Niceone Senator

    And we should care this happened, why?

    March 1, 2010 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  2. Realist

    Of course he doesn't have a comment. He just gave a middle finger to all unemployed Americans. THAT is his comment.

    March 1, 2010 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  3. Dee

    I wonder how much his retirement will be. Probably over $100,000 that is paid by tax payers money. The Republicans put this country in the mess it is today. I don't care what these so called republicans say. I lost my job under BUSH AND CHENEY and the REPUBLICANS. Now people who are still struggling can't get it because of this guy. Shame on him. You didn't have the money (50 trillion) back in 2003 when you past the medicare advantage bill. STOP REPUBLICANS ANYONE WHO VOTES FOR YOU GUYS ARE JUST ASKING FOR TROUBLE AGAIN.

    March 1, 2010 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  4. Pip

    Do this with any other job, and you would be let go.

    March 1, 2010 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  5. Too True For You

    For once Reid is right on the money (pun intended).

    The republicans are willing to write blank checks to kill foreigners and our kids, but By Golly, If those sniveling libruls suggest we spend some money here at home helping Americans, we By God better have the funds to pay for it!

    Go figure.

    Just like modern republicans take orders from the cafeteria Christians, they also practice "cafeteria" fiscal conservatism.

    March 1, 2010 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  6. Tiffany

    I should begin by saying that I'm a Democrat and totally offended by the idea that a public servant would behave in such a way, no matter how obnoxious reporters were being.

    That said, the man has a point: "If we can't find $10 billion to pay for something that we all support, we will never pay for anything on the floor of the U.S. Senate," he said.

    I understand that spending money is a necessary part of rescuing the economy. I also think that we're doing it recklessly.

    March 1, 2010 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  7. jm for sc

    When a people do what is right and they know it, they never get angry when asked about it. Anger is a quick reponse when you have no real reason for your actions or your reason must remain on the hidden agenda. (ex. racist, ignorant, no concern for poor people, etc.)

    March 1, 2010 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  8. Leonor

    So, when is this one going to retire?

    March 1, 2010 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  9. John

    LOVE me some Jim Bunning.....

    this just made my day....

    March 1, 2010 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  10. Donald, North Carolina

    When is this disgusting conduct by a US Senator going to end?

    Obviously, the Republican "Leadership" is to cowardly to act and the Senate as a whole seems to have its head stuck in a hole.

    So, I ask the people of Kentucky - Do you condone this arrogant and juvenille behavior as YOUR elected US Senator to continue in this vain until his term expires in Jan? If not, demand his immediate resignation!!!

    For all you other 99 US Senators - SHAME ON YOU!!!

    March 1, 2010 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  11. Mr. Man

    Classy guy, as well as a hypocrite.

    March 1, 2010 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  12. mike

    He needs to be gone!! He's a nutcase!!

    March 1, 2010 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  13. Cathy in AZ

    Good thing he is retiring – can you imagine the outcry if a reporter had done the same to him! He is blocking benefits and does not care since he is not running again!
    Shame, Shame, Shame – wonder how he would feel if he did not receive his pension – but then he has his MLB pension to fall back on!

    March 1, 2010 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  14. larry

    About time someone gave the middle finger to our Obamamania media.

    March 1, 2010 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  15. hobart

    What a class act, and yet he is simply saying what the vast majority of Republicans really think.

    All taxes are evil. Borrow and spend, unfunded wars, unfunded tax cuts, unfunded mandates to the states have all left us on the brink of the next Great Depression. And yet, all they do is to tell those who lost their jobs, their health insurance, their homes, is to quit whining.

    Public schools are socialism, yet they all send their kids to public schools. Public roads are socialism, yet they all drive on them as if their lives depended on it.

    Why do Republicans so hate America?

    March 1, 2010 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  16. billy

    Pure class from the GOP

    March 1, 2010 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  17. Rachael

    Ah, the true face of the Republican Party. Is he giving the bird to all those who just lost their jobless benefits due to his stubbornness? "Let them eat cake." days are here again circa 2010. America in decline.

    March 1, 2010 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  18. Proud DEM

    Typical Rethuglican...you guys make me sick...angry old men need to go bye bye...and this is a good example of what they think and what they are all about...he's not up for re-election, so he is going to do what he wants...and all his little cohorts in congress and the senate are just the same..but, they need to be on their best behavior if they are up for re-election..but we know what they are all about...they just want Obama to fail, plain and simple folks....

    March 1, 2010 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  19. GI Joe

    I've never understood why KY put him or McConnell in DC - they're both wealthy old white men. Couldn't care less about us.

    March 1, 2010 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  20. Dean

    Can you imagine anyone asking to have a government program be paid for before passing the bill for that program?

    On the other subject, Obama has been giving the finger to the people for a year now.

    March 1, 2010 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  21. Tre

    What I cant understand is how one senator can block jobless relief. Perhaps I am missing something, but I thought if you had at least 60 senators in favor of something, it can pass. How can 1 man hold up the Senate? What procedural method is this senator using to block jobless relief?

    March 1, 2010 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  22. Cindy

    Please don't take the heat off this bozo. He needs to step down from office. And cancel his government health insurance. And buy his own Job Loss Insurance from a private Insurance Company.

    Stop sponging off the government Bunning. Put your money where your mouth is.

    March 1, 2010 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  23. Linda, Mormonville, Utah

    What a lovely man! A good Republican Christian - screwing the poor and middle class and giving the finger to people asking why.

    You gotta love Republican family values!

    March 1, 2010 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  24. thinskin

    I sure hope the reportes had their safety glasses and flack jackets on, if not I hope they'll be ok and won't need extensive therapy.
    (CNN's Dana Bash AND ABC News producer Z. Bryon Wolf –
    what appropriate names for reporters Bash and Wolf)

    March 1, 2010 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  25. JaJa

    Teabaggers at their finest.

    March 1, 2010 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
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