March 1st, 2010
07:22 PM ET
12 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. anon

    you didn't know? You can't ever question a republican

    March 1, 2010 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  2. Thomas, Baton Rouge, LA

    Bunning's rich, he doesn't care. All these politicians have their jobs. Screw the little guy.

    March 1, 2010 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  3. moderate in montana

    Umpires would throw someone out a game for that....right?

    March 1, 2010 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  4. If I was crazy, I'd be a conservative too

    The intelligence of a conservative is refreshing. That Jimbo always had difficulty with expressing himself in English. Kentucky has two complete asses representing them in the senate.

    March 1, 2010 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  5. Phillip

    But, being such a good outstanding Republican, Republican Bunning will be in church next Sunday thumping on his Bible. Typical Republican!

    March 1, 2010 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  6. Here is your democracy.

    What's next? Knives in the Senate house? Classless fools.

    March 1, 2010 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  7. GI Joe

    Where was this jerk on two unfunded and undeclared wars?

    March 1, 2010 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  8. mnord

    Bunning is acting like a typical republican, he is not acting to solve a problem, he is simply refusing to take an active part is solving the problem. The middle finger thing is simply uncalled for, especially from a member of Congress; but, then again he is acting as a republican.

    March 1, 2010 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  9. ugogrl

    the hell with the gop lets vote all of them out this november! the party of NO! now now now vote them out out out

    March 1, 2010 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  10. nick

    you stay classy jim...

    March 1, 2010 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  11. Polly

    Republican Bunning is truly what the GOP stands for!! What an embarrassment to our country. Glad he's on his way out. Piss on his grave!

    March 1, 2010 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  12. shrugginatlas

    good for you Mr Bunning. Had you been a democrat the worthless media would have swept it under the rug. You were trying to get to the floor and the irrisponsible media was trying to get a gottcha quote from you (of course you gave them the finger) but the problem is the media should have scheduled time instead. oh well, nice to know the media is in search of the truth, well until it comes to a democrat then they are in search for a cover up

    March 1, 2010 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  13. Lexie

    Republican Bunning can take his finger, stick it where the sun don't shine and twirl on it.....he'll probably enjoy it!

    March 1, 2010 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  14. Brian

    Nothing but a typical GOP malcontent.

    March 1, 2010 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  15. Jaxson

    Bet his mama would have been proud.....what an embarrassment!!

    March 1, 2010 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  16. chorse

    He may as well have been giving the finger to all the people on unemployment that will be penniless now. Nice.....

    March 1, 2010 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  17. hayden zeke

    I think a middle finger is a symbol for a Kentucky IQ.

    March 1, 2010 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  18. Lee--Dallas, TX

    REPUBLICAN OBSTRUCTIONIST...simply put. Dems are not at fault for this mess, though other incidents could be up for discussion. This one goes in the (R) column.

    Our system is broken. The minority can stop things from going forward and 1 man (troll) can stop hundreds of thousands of people from being paid. America wake up, REPUBLICAN OBSTRUCTIONISM is not the key.

    March 1, 2010 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  19. DaveG

    That gesture is essentially what the entire Republican party has been offering to ALL US citizens for help, assistance, reform or anything else that does not directly benefit the corporate agenda.

    March 1, 2010 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  20. Stallion

    I am all in favor of Freedom of the's one of the things I love about America. It sounds like that finger equatls $10,000,000,000 that we don't have......good thing it was only for the one bill cause the reporters might have gotten a few more.

    March 1, 2010 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  21. Ed, Santa Fe, NM

    What a pig!

    Here's another smug, self-important GOP jerk to VOTE OUT....

    March 1, 2010 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  22. sp7890

    I wouldn't take it personally Z. Bryon Wolf. He has already done that to millions of unemployed Americans.

    March 1, 2010 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  23. Republicans is smart in the head area

    Obviously attended the same charm school as Dick Cheney.

    March 1, 2010 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  24. J K Gery

    Bunning is giving the finger to millions of unemployed Americans. His Republicant Tea Bag supporters must be proud.

    March 1, 2010 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  25. The lonely Libertarian of Liverpool NY

    How dare the CNN and ABC news reporters question his highness Sen. Bunning? He is a self serving (not public serving) leader, who has earned his right to be above us lower class American people. You tell them Senator! Let them eat cake! Sen. Bunning is no different than any other member in congress of either party.
    Excuse me! What is the difference between these two parties? All I know is both have had a monopoly on my freedom for my entire lifetime (53YRS), and year after year I work and struggle and get no where. Every year the taxes and fees to feed the massive Government go up and the value of the Dollar goes down.
    How can you folks continue to vote for these people who refuse to represent you? How can you vote for these two parties who have done nothing to your right to individual Liberty?
    Vote Congress out, “you are fired” if they are in. Vote them out this fall no matter what party they belong to and in the next election and every election going forward until they become the servants of the people once more.

    March 1, 2010 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
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