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. chillihead

    This crude, foul old white man can't leave congress soon enough for me, him and all his cronnies are the main reason this country is in such a mess.

    March 1, 2010 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  2. Tina Seals

    I appreciate Mr. Ried for setting the record straight. It is an emergency resolution number one and number two NOTHING IS PAID FOR!

    March 1, 2010 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  3. Dumbasrocks [R]s

    Not sure what the broohaha is all about. Bunning was merely conveying the sum-total IQ of all his supporters.

    March 1, 2010 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  4. MEL

    Well, how nice that he has a job and doesn't need the benefits, hopefully that will change soon and he may find out how the half feels! His gesture is extremely rude and not befitting a Senator, who should be representing his country in a positive role model. Our founding fathers must be turning in their graves at the attitudes and behavior of our Nation's representatives.

    March 1, 2010 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  5. JA/TN

    the senator is a (pig-n-strips) thug in pinstripe, we give to much credence to most policticans, because most are self-serving or big business serving, not service for the people, and we have expectations for the children to behave properly

    March 1, 2010 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  6. Lori in Texas

    Bunning's just another Republican tool in the toolbox. It will always be Profits Before People and Party Before Country with these selfish old white men.

    March 1, 2010 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  7. ThinkAgain

    A Republican Senator flips the bird at a reporter?

    The Republican Party has been doing that to our WHOLE COUNTRY for years!

    March 1, 2010 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  8. Raymond

    This guy needs to go now!

    March 1, 2010 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  9. Jordan

    The best part about all of this is that Bunning now for the rest of his life will have to be cautious when he or his family are out in public, The rest of his life he must be afraid for himself and his family just because of his actions in one week.... Because people like myself who would happen to see Bunning in public will use that opportunity to teach him a leson

    March 1, 2010 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  10. Anonymous

    No money to pay for it? What happened to that trickle down thing the repubs hailed?

    Repubs dont know anything about money do they? Other than how to fail at it.

    March 1, 2010 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  11. Ronnie

    This moron needs to be re-called!

    March 1, 2010 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  12. Peggy - TX

    Angry Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Kentucky, who is retiring at the end of this year stood firm in his determination to stop President Obama from successfully passing any bill that would help President Obama get elected. When he was a young man in Kentucy, blacks knew their place was to work cheep to make white men wealthy, and now, they think that they can be President. Sure, Bunning is single handedly putting hundreds of people out of work and stopping important construction projects; but, those people that work those hard labor intensive jobs in construction include a lot of minorities and, frankly, Bunning does not represent those people. No, Bunning is aiming to be the hero to for greedy white guys who want it all. That is why he stood with Bush and supported for the wealthiest white people of America a 1.3 Trillion a year tax cut.

    Unlike the other Republican cowards in the Senate, Bunning just does not stand idly by, doing nothing and just voting NO while we witness the end of the world as we know it. No, Bunning is a man of action and rare courage.

    March 1, 2010 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  13. Charlie in Maine

    Jim Bunning has given the finger to everyone who pays un-emloyment insurance, has a job or has lost a job. In short everyone who is not independantly wealthy. I can't think of an insult worthy of this sob. He should be tarred and feathered.

    March 1, 2010 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  14. Tom in Illinois

    Let BO and the democrats have a dose of their own medicine. You can't keep giving money away you don't have.

    March 1, 2010 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  15. Raymond Cottengaim

    I am shocked at the dispicable behavior of this Senator. He needs to quit sooner than later. How dare he or any elected poltical person conduct themselves with such blatant disregard for the the people who voted for him or her. He is only in the Senate at the will of the voter and must carry out that will while he is in the Senate. To thumb your nose at the people is arrogant. He about the lowest piece of politcal scum I can think of, great the sooner he goes the better. Oh if he is so concerned about the deficit why is he accepting his salary and benefits.

    March 1, 2010 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  16. Leslie

    It's too bad that millions of Americans are going to be screwed over, lose their homes or apartments because they can't pay for them, starve or be reduced to begging for food, all because of one rich politician who'se retiring and doesn't care.

    March 1, 2010 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  17. Anonymous

    Thank goodness this "senator" is retiring since he is showing that he does not have the interest of the people of this country on his agenda. This is just another example of Republican politics...say NO to anything regardless of the pain and suffering it can bring to people or the country.

    March 1, 2010 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  18. Rudy

    Shame, shame,Sen. Bunning – you keep forgetting who put you in the Senate – we the people – and we can also take you out again. Perhaps it would be good for you to collect unemployment to find out for yourself how it feels to pay mortgage,insurance,fuel,groceries,etc. on a few bucks. We would love to work if we just could find jobs.

    March 1, 2010 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  19. Typical Republican

    Typical Republican – can own up or explain his actions.

    March 1, 2010 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  20. robert diogenes

    The vote by Sen Jim Bunning to hold up the extentsion of unemployment compensation neatly summarizes the Republican party view of the of the US citizenry. Namely they don't care about the citizens, They don't care that people in need who are not directly responsible for fiscal deficits will suffer.

    This shows that the Republican Party's first concern is money. People come second. This is one of the biggest differences between the parties. The Democratic Party has a history of people first and money second.

    Sen Bunning was probably chosen to deliver this message because he is retiring and will not have to face the voters in the next election.

    March 1, 2010 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  21. Bev

    So, if this in fact happened, the Honorable Senator from Kentucky should relinguish his honorable title until he apologizes. This just emphasizes the point that dignity is in short supply in government. Shame on you Senator Bunning – grow up, for pity sake.

    March 1, 2010 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  22. Big Ed

    I have an idea...when his re-election come up, let's give this goofball the finger!

    March 1, 2010 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  23. Larry Blom

    And what does Mr. Bunning have to gain for his obstructionism? Is he acting on some genuine sense of fiscal conscience, or is he simply getting paid by someone who represents the Problem rather than the Solution? The way the Senate "works" these days it can only follow that it's another case of the latter. Why do we continue to put up with it?

    March 1, 2010 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  24. Bob of Lompoc

    Have another drink Senator. Soon you will be gone from the Senate – forever. Does this Republican behavior surprise anyone?

    March 1, 2010 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  25. Jack in Florida

    Figures that the Senator was from the "Party of No." Class act he is!

    March 1, 2010 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
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