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

Republican senator gives journalist the middle finger

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="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. Mike in Dallas

    Why should this man be concerned with the citizens and workers of this country. He's a member of the "I got mine, screw you" party.

    March 1, 2010 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  2. Joe

    Hey use reconciliation to go around Bunning and get the little guy a few more unemployment checks. I'm sure he voted for other stuff that funding wasn't figured out for.

    March 1, 2010 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  3. Pat in IL

    Has he been to a doctor lately? There's obvously something the matter with him.

    March 1, 2010 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  4. Shannon G.

    This idiot is the main reason why the GOP need to clean their house.

    March 1, 2010 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  5. B

    How in the world do- utterly Disgusting- people like this get into their positions? This person should be thrown out along with many others like him......

    It is time that we CLEAN HOUSE people, Vote them OUT.......

    March 1, 2010 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  6. Chas

    He only showed the Republican I.Q.

    March 1, 2010 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  7. Kiss

    Another politician that needs to be VOTED OUT when he comes up for re-election.

    March 1, 2010 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  8. DB TX

    Thumps up Sen. Bunning for standing up to Pay as you go Bill that passed. He had valid point Find way to pay this by cutting back on other program. There is nothing wrong with this and media does not report story correctly. what ever happen to accountability of Stimulus bill? How is the hope and change is working out for all of you?

    March 1, 2010 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  9. cbc

    Yeah, God bless the Republicans these days. Lots of class and concern for the American people. Glad I bailed out of that pathetic party...

    March 1, 2010 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  10. jim

    Why is it ,that we can give money and supplies ,food and help to other countries but we cannot help our own people .I have been out of work since july 8,2009 and cannot find a job yet, and now my unemployment is going to run out ,i have two kids to feed and a home to pay for and car payments ,and put food on the table .I can not stop and say wait to my creditors when i get the money i will pay would Sen,Jim Bunning like to tell his kids sorry we have no where to live but the street .This goverment has given me no hope what so ever ,god help us all. Michigander jim.

    March 1, 2010 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  11. Terik Ororke

    It shows what the Republicans think of ordinary Americans–if it were the rich getting a tax break, the republicans would not withold anything. Time for Americans to remember this kind of stuff and note that it also comes out of Kentucky where the Senate minority leader is also from.

    March 1, 2010 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  12. Allen in Hartwell GA

    I wish one Obama hater would give specifics of what he has done to warrant such hate. He has honored the Constitution much more than Bush and Cheney. He has acted much more Christian-like than they did. He has made more effort to help the country get the economy back on track then they did. He has shown more support for our troops than Bush and Cheney. Someone please give specifics, facts, of what Obama has done for you to hate him so.
    As for Bunning, he's just showing bi-partisanship as envisioned by the GOP.

    March 1, 2010 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  13. johnny

    he is a scum bag like the rest of those republicans

    March 1, 2010 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  14. Kate

    Another stinking Republican. Now if that would have been a democrat...OMG

    March 1, 2010 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
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