March 1st, 2010
07:22 PM ET
5 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. Larry

    This hasbeen is a never was who could never make it through the seventh inning. He would be a perfect pick to head "The White Annoying Teabagger" party.

    March 1, 2010 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  2. Dan, TX

    The republicans gave us this deficit. We are not going to sit back and support republicans in 2010 until there are a new group of republicans. No republican in Washington before 2008 will get any votes from me.

    March 1, 2010 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    Grand Old PArty of hate and prejudice in action. A true Object Lesson in what's deeply broken in government: Obstructionist Republicans willing to hold Americans hostage just so Obama can look bad. Time to kick these anti-american pro-big business bureaucrats out of power.

    March 1, 2010 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  4. Hmmmmmm?

    WOW is all I can say!

    March 1, 2010 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  5. Lynne in CA

    This type of arrogance is the reason America has had it with obstructionist career politicians mainly of the Republican persuasion. Bunning is holding up the lifeline of many out of work Americans and bringing the transportation job sector to a halt. Then he has the audacity of arrogance to flip off the public.

    Shame on those politicians whose obstructionist and blatant behaviors designed to enhance their own power, wealth and position, falls on the backbone of Middle Class America.

    March 1, 2010 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  6. Jeff

    So he gives the middle finger to reporters as well as the unemployed...and note that he voted AGAINST the senate's paygo bill. he is doing all this out of spite. This man is the face of the republican party. Thanks, Kentucky. Can't wait until you give us Rand Paul...

    March 1, 2010 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  7. CitizenS

    Your Republicans hard at work as usual working for the rich and clobbering the average poor and middle class constituents. Well, just vote them back in office and watch the Congress continue in gridlock and see how it feels when it hits you, the citizen!

    March 1, 2010 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  8. Chuck Anaheim Ca.

    And how do you really feel about the American people mr. bunning?

    March 1, 2010 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  9. chuck

    Senators and Republicans in general have been shooting the invisible finger for decades. Try being gay and petitioning your government for grievances. You will get nowhere for decades. You will get nowhere for a lifetime. Try being gay and defending your country and you will get 100 birdie fingers while on the front lines. I'm glad these reporters are finally getting a taste of this distasteful behavior from these tasteless people.

    March 1, 2010 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  10. John

    We know one thing and that is not one thing from either party has worked. It is tough S.. that he took the stance he did but maybe Harry Reid should have planned better than appropiating the $$ a week in advance. GOP and Democratic Americans will suffer but such as the case in a financially hard times. We are all sucking wind out here and the government can't handle all of lifes problems.

    March 1, 2010 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  11. CR

    Wonder what the people of Kentucky think about this crude jerk representing their state? The Republican leadership should at least denounce his behavior. Then again maybe they support it.

    March 1, 2010 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  12. Donna

    Wow this guy is a freakin' nutcase. I say all of us who will lose our benefits soon should find Senator Bunning's office address and send our bills there.

    March 1, 2010 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  13. Rick in AZ

    This man is a disgrace. Seems to me Bunting is a jerk of the first order. Why is he denying millions of unemployed workers, both Democrat and Rebublican alike, a few dollars a week? I guess he's doing it because he can.

    March 1, 2010 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  14. FRANK, LAS VEGAS

    This idiot should be thrown out of the Senate, he's completely useless!

    March 1, 2010 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  15. Laurie

    Classy. Apparently he's just a redneck, not a socialist. Nice of him to feel the pain of the American people. What a loser!!!

    March 1, 2010 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  16. jim in indy

    Senators only elevator? You gotta be kidding me.
    This guy needs to get a life.

    March 1, 2010 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  17. jfs Memhis, Tn

    This is a good example of a tea party candidate. Once their in they take it upon thmselves to not only decide what is best for their constituents ...but also what is best for the nation. This is arrogance and selfishness. Can you imagine where we would be today if these attitides where prevelent during our founding fathers scope in time ??? Thanks to all who supported this guy.....this will certainly make this nation great and inclusive.

    March 1, 2010 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  18. Mark Byland

    He should be fired, stripped of benefits, and forced to apply to a program he declined to support ... and subsequently denied coverage.

    March 1, 2010 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  19. RonFWNC

    It would seem that Senator Bunning is in need of a psychiatric evaluation at the earliest opportunity. Exclusive of any political concerns, such conduct is inexcusable and inappropriate.

    March 1, 2010 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  20. Rick

    He should be asked to step down immediately. If not forced out of the senate.

    March 1, 2010 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  21. Marty

    He is behaving like a lunatic. He is my senator and I have to say I am deeply embarrassed. He is a spoiled ex sports figure. My hands are clean. I would never vote for him or Mitch McConnell either. They are both asses and have a very bad "me" complex. Bunning is still angry because everyone in KY wanted him to retire or resign. No support from even the Republican Party. I don't know what else to say except apologize for his child-like manners.

    March 1, 2010 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  22. Adam, Oregon

    And here we have a shining example of everything wrong in this country. Some P.O.S elected to represent the people and his complete, reprehensible disgust at those that need help just seeping from the pores in his skin. He is a disgrace and quite disgusting especially when he talked about how upset he was missing the Kentucky basketball game, somehow likening the feeling of missing a stupid game to those that are now missing healtcare or orther monies. I cannot be any more disgusted but thank you once again Republicants for showing your true colors...please continue to prosper at the mercy of those you enslave

    March 1, 2010 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  23. FloridaRes

    This is typical of the GOP response to Americans who are suffering – a "Let them eat cake" Marie Antoinette response. Isn't it great that Bunning will retire from the Senate with a great Pension, Social Security AND the best health care that American citizens can pay for?

    March 1, 2010 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  24. Steve in MA

    A real class act. Dick Cheney must be his role-model.

    March 1, 2010 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  25. Dave

    a true class act, thank god he is retiring at the end of the year. America wants the GOP in office, this is what you get America, this is what you get

    March 1, 2010 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
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