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. Steve from WI

    I can't imagine a worse choice of opportunities to start grandstanding on "fiscal responsibility" than this week's lifeline to idled workers. It's a gift to Democrats that this foul-mouthed misanthrope can't live up to his own responsibility to behave like an adult.

    March 1, 2010 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  2. Ben

    Go Jimmy! Give 'em Hell!! LOL!

    March 1, 2010 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  3. Brian

    He just needs to resign from the public office, he not professional at all.

    March 1, 2010 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  4. homas

    Senator Bunning needs to be unemployed.

    March 1, 2010 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  5. bc3b

    Jim Bunning wasn't just speaking for himself; he was speaking for millions of Americans. The U.S. media is the only group of people more dishonest than politicians.

    March 1, 2010 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  6. deloris

    Here we go again. The repubs trying to kill the poor and middle class.and they want their country. Send toyoda back and all the easterm europeans back

    March 1, 2010 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  7. David in Texas

    And all this from a man who has no problem stealing 75% of all proceeds from his own charity (Jim Bunning Foundation). Yes, that's correct...look into it.

    T*me Magazine was correct when it named this man one of "America's Five Worst Senators"!

    For shame...

    March 1, 2010 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  8. Dubya

    I wonder if Sarah Palin will be offended by this?

    March 1, 2010 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  9. emmett brown

    what a role model....

    March 1, 2010 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  10. Ras-Disputin

    Let's all just meet at his house to eat. Anybody have his
    home address...somebody pick a date please.

    March 1, 2010 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  11. frank

    Bunning is a loose cannon. Even too crazy for the GOP. I love these people who are so out of touch with people on unemployment or need. This guy played games for a living. He wouldn't know a real job if it bit him in the assbrain.

    March 1, 2010 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  12. Matt

    I love the CNN bias here: "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." I'm sorry you lost your jobs, but it is not America's fault. It's not Bunning's fault. The time awarded to you to earn jobless benefits is over. That's all you get, just like everybody else has in the past–oh, wait. You already got more because someone thinks this recession is different than the ones before. It's not. Since you're not doing anything else but taking my tax dollars, read up on some Hayekian economics and understand why everything crashed. Your "generous" politicians who try to give you everything, are part of the reason you don't have a job. They're part of the reason your house is worth nothing. They're part of the reason the money in your pocket couldn't last you until you found another job. That is, assuming you actually saved something; assuming you took out a mortgage you knew you could afford on one-half your family's income; assuming you had a good job in which you weren't replaceable. Some of you will have to look in the mirror and realize you did it to yourself, also. Some will have to look in the mirror, and ask yourself if you really deserve more money that will be printed out of thin air by the Fed and devalue the rest of the money we have. Bunning is right: it's time to pay the piper!

    March 1, 2010 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  13. Patricia

    Senator Bunning is my senator and I am very ashamed and quite embarrassed of his foul hand gesture–your mouth, not your middle finger, should be doing the speaking for the residents of our state, Senator!

    March 1, 2010 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  14. steve

    Another republican sacrifices country for party. so, so sad!! As an unnamed talk show host wanted failure of his country's hopes, he wants more suffering of his country's disabled.

    March 1, 2010 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  15. Jack in CT

    I see that the distinguished senator from Kentucky wears eyeglasses. It would have been a tad more discrete had he adjusted them higher by using his "bad finger".

    March 1, 2010 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  16. Michael, Phoenix AZ

    One more comment....Mitch McConnel is also from Kentucky.....two problems in the same state it seems....Sen Bunning needs to take that finger and put it where the sun don't shine maybe??

    March 1, 2010 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  17. usualone

    Glad he is getting out of the system; he illustrates exactly to a "T" what Democrats are opposing. He shows he doesn't care about anybody by his rude crudeness. What a baby!

    March 1, 2010 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  18. ken

    he's flipping off all the people that are unemployed people who lost their jobs due to his partys disastrous 8 year run.

    March 1, 2010 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  19. Peter Zheutlin

    Someone needs to throw a fastball high and tight at this former major league babeball pitcher.

    March 1, 2010 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  20. Pam

    I'm not in the least bit surprised, republicans have been flipping off the American people since Obama got elected.

    Pam in Ohio

    March 1, 2010 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  21. Brian

    Of course there is no proof this happened is there? Heresay from a reporter......yet all of you conservative bashers are quick to jump on your bandwagon and crucify the guy. Shame on CNN for reporting this at all let alone giving it a headline as it is a matter of fact.

    March 1, 2010 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  22. Dubya

    He just look mean; sort-of like Dick Chaney. Maybe the are both constipated all the time.

    March 1, 2010 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  23. LoveThyNeighbor

    Why can't people act like ADULTS? It's like Cheney telling a certain person to F@#$-Off. They want it their way or no way and won't even be a responsible person. [Later they will go through the "act" of "apoligizing" but, by then the bell has been rung. That shows me they do not care for anyone besides themselves. Such a sad nation we live in when the people who are suppose to represent us give in to cussing, name calling and rude gestures. Such CHILDISH acts. It's as if they were never taught better or lack the brains to comprehend. Sam

    March 1, 2010 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  24. Kari

    Had no idea that only Democrats depend on unemployment benefits.

    March 1, 2010 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  25. Sally

    What does Jim Bunning want us umcmployed to do? I have been out of work for 19 months. The job I used to do is gone now for someone my age I am 59 years old later this year. I do not sit on my butt and wait for a check I scan the web sites and newspapers, I send out resumes all the time. I have had 2 interviews in 19 months.
    I don't like getting a hand out, but you now will have more homeless
    more people losing their homes, cars, etc. I have already lost my home. If Washington had concentrated on job creation last year and not the health care bill maybe something could have been done to start up jobs again. I know healh care is important but in the case of myself and others out of work–work is more important. I don't like being a "Free Loader" but what can I do. I was under the impression that the government was suppose to help us. We vote you people into office based on your promises Lets see how many of you in Washington will be re-elected. We unemployed need more help and you in Washington need to get together and fingure something out. Too cut our unemployement benefits is wrong and shame on all involved especially Jim Bunning. And how mature to flip of the reporters Jim real grown up.

    March 1, 2010 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17