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. Duke

    Way to go Senator! It seems that is the only thing these dunderheads understand.

    March 1, 2010 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  2. Al, NY NY

    "Fiscal responsibility..."????? When he probably gave Duh Duh Duh-bya a rubber stamp to any spending program he wanted. Typical classless Republican, right up there with "Eff off" Dickie Cheney

    March 1, 2010 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  3. Sue

    The money for the unemployment extensions should be coming from the unspent stimulous money-–NOT print/borrow even more money.

    March 1, 2010 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  4. Dave

    That's what voters should give him next election. Him, and the rest of the GOP.

    March 1, 2010 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  5. Adam from Kentucky

    We tried to give Jim the boot last election; thank God he's retiring, otherwise the dumb-and-backward majority here would probably elect him again. It came up in the last election, but the guy has some obvious mental issues; now he's just letting himself go.

    March 1, 2010 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    LOL his middle finger response was right into thre FACE OF AMERICANS who need employment assistance....The GOP's new symbol to AMERICA ....give'em the finger.

    March 1, 2010 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  7. Jeremy

    For christ's sake let the man DO HIS JOB. I hate this crap where people get mobbed by the media. If you want an interview then schedule one!

    March 1, 2010 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  8. Duke

    They apparently haven't heard of "PAY GO"!

    March 1, 2010 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  9. frank

    MCcane and bunning, perfect together.

    March 1, 2010 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  10. Bedtime for Obonzo

    I hope Z. Bryon Wolf's feeling weren't hurt too badly by the Senator's gesture. Is this news?

    March 1, 2010 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  11. Jim

    Why no, he already have the finger to Americans who need the unemployment insurance.

    March 1, 2010 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  12. Adam

    Im glad he gave the finger to reporters. You are all way to nosey.

    March 1, 2010 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  13. jm for sc

    Maybe the American people can open their eyes to the GOP's plot to overthrow this administration at any and all cost to poor people.

    Where was this outburst during the uncontrollable spending under the Bush Administration? If we had this kind of over seeing, we would have been still enjoying the surplus left after the Clinton Administration.

    March 1, 2010 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  14. Dan A

    I would like to give Bunning the finger--better yet my fist would be more appropriate !!! He never was much of an athlete and even worse as a politician. He really duped the people of Kentucky-both him and Mitch McConnell –a couple of real first class morons !!!!

    March 1, 2010 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  15. cryUncle

    He needs to ask himself what kind of gestures thousands of unemployed Americans are giving him. He claims we can't pay for these benefits. What does he say about the Bush tax cuts that he voted for? He's heartless and clueless concerning the plight of everyday people who are hurting and desperate.

    March 1, 2010 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  16. Sue

    By the way CNN........Why is it that you are not asking this question of Obama, Pelosi, and Reid...........

    "Why are they not using the unspent stimulous dollars to pay for the unemployment extensions-–instead of printing/borrowing even more money"??

    March 1, 2010 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  17. Tayo, NY

    Middle finger? Isn't that derogatory?

    Anyway if its difficult for this man to give the hungry unemployed Americans a break I wonder what he will do with larger bill!

    He is asking for the Government to come ou wit ways of paying for 10Billion Dollars yet he is requesting for the Government to give more tax cut to the wealthy. I just don't get it but I know more tax cut to the wealthy (which most of these guys support) don't add to balance budget or lower the deficit. It only raised the deficit during the last administration.

    This politician behavior = politics as usual.

    March 1, 2010 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  18. Sparky

    Dirtbag

    March 1, 2010 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  19. Dwight

    Is any one suprised, this is typical republican attitude for all to see.

    March 1, 2010 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  20. RH

    Angry Republican with no real answer or resolution...what else is new...the party of NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO
    You get my point.

    March 1, 2010 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  21. Shelley

    But I bet he voted himself a raise!

    March 1, 2010 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  22. Lumberjack

    This guy should rot in hell, greedy old bastard!

    March 1, 2010 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  23. John

    could be wrong but it seems it is time for this one to walk off into the sunset...and into a retirement home.

    March 1, 2010 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  24. svivar9087

    It's easy to take a stand, when the concequences of these actions, do not affect YOUR life.

    A republican's version of an act of concern, with little reguard of the people they represent. Talk about being out of touch !.....use us, abuse us and now kick us when were down :-(

    March 1, 2010 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  25. If I was crazy, I'd be a conservative too

    Maybe Jeff Foxworthy can come up with a new show, "Is there a conservative senator who is smarter than a third grader?"

    March 1, 2010 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
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