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. Justin

    Class act

    March 1, 2010 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  2. James

    Such class.

    March 1, 2010 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  3. Dar

    I guess all senators get their feathers ruffled from time to time by the news media sticking mic's in their face and all asking the same question over and over again, but you dont have to flip someone off in front of evryone. I would have just wispered in their ear F. U. while I was smiling at the crowd.
    Do we think and should he be held to a higher standard? Yup, but we have ALL fliped the bird a time or two haven't we.

    March 1, 2010 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  4. Hmmmmmm?

    I guess this is how to communicate effectively??? Perhaps this is what he and the other GOP supporters is saying to the American people. ____ health care _____ the unemployed ____ the US? I hope his grandchildren aren't watching!!! 🙁

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

    I guess he knows it's not a popular decision to vote against a bill that would help Americans get jobs! So typically hypocritical of Republicans. And I'm not talking about flipping the bird, who cares about that! They pretend to be for average Americans and the working man, but everyone knows they are only out for big business, so when something comes along to help the average "Joe" get back to work they vote against it. Wake up America, the Republicans are the reason we are in the mess we are in now and they don't want to do anything about it, but pull a fast one and try to blame it on Obama! They are the ones that deregulated everything and let Wall Street and Big Business screw up the economy, it happened before, remember the great depression, and it took a Democrat then to fix it, and it's gonna take a Democrat now to fix it. Stop letting them play into your right wing Communist Scare Fears and take your medicine. This country needs help!

    March 1, 2010 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  6. Robin in Tampa, FL

    It's nice to see a Republican sticking to his guns and screwing over millions of people just to make a point.

    March 1, 2010 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  7. Anonymous

    Real Republican class!

    March 1, 2010 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  8. Patsy, Texas

    Congress has become the most disgusting, childish, bunch of
    self-centered people that have been voted into office in a long time.
    They don't respect each other, they don't respect the American
    people, and thereby they don't respect themselves. They will call
    people terrible names, make obscene gestures, party with whoever
    pays the bills, and just wallow in greed, jealousy, and dimwitted
    conversation. There are some who are trying to find solutions to
    America's problems, but many take no responsibility for what has
    happened, blame everybody but themselves, and pretend to care.
    For the first time in my long life, I will probably not vote, because I
    no longer trust the judgment of these people. They do not deserve
    the taxpayers money. I am sad. Thank you.

    March 1, 2010 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  9. Cheryl

    Typical Republican response – screw the people, we have ours, we're rich!

    March 1, 2010 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  10. FactCheck

    Pretty much sums about how the RNC feels about the country. Party first, screw everyone else.

    March 1, 2010 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  11. Ada-Mount Pocono,pa

    In actuality he made that gesture towards us the american people. What kind of person is that that denies the little bit of money that the unemployed are entitled to get once they are laid off.

    He really needs to settle down and do the right thing for the unemployed. What a jerk he is.

    March 1, 2010 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  12. Adalbert

    This careless scrooge should have retired years ego.

    March 1, 2010 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  13. James

    When will we just except the fact the GOP is the party of "NO" When it comes to extending unemployment or healthcare. They just don't care because they are all "fat cats" filling there pockets with the special interest groups dollars. If you are unemployed and without health care benefits, you can blame the GOP. If you want to know what happened to the jobs in this country, look at the last 14 trade agreements under the GOP watch. This is the reason this once great country has fallen on such hard times. If you havn't fallen on hard times yet and think that your job is somehow "safe" think again.

    March 1, 2010 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  14. Madison

    Perhaps now, all those working class folks who have been supporting the Tea Party and GOP will see that they are being manipulated by the billionaires who own and operate the corporations that will have to reform under many of President Obama's initiatives.
    I am amazed that the rabid followers of Fox refuse to understand that it is own by a foreigner. We have a foreigner telling us what is patriotic and what is not.
    What Senator Bunning has done is not!

    March 1, 2010 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  15. Gary

    Another angry old white republican.
    I'm sorry, I meant " angry old ignorant white, hatefull, republican",
    I'm trying to distinguish him from the others, but I can't.

    March 1, 2010 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  16. ThinkAgain

    Before all the haters start complaining about paying for lazy people to get unemployment and COBRA benefits, read this:

    The COBRA subsidy is what enabled my family to keep its health care for the four months last year we endured unemployment, taking the cost down from $1100/month for a family of five to a much more manageable $465/month.

    That enabled us to continue health insurance, which is especially important to have when you are covering children (we have 3 kids, all under the age of 11).

    Without the COBRA subsidy – and unemployment insurance – we probably would have had to either run up our credit cards (which we've been careful to not over-use) or take out a second mortgage (on a house we’ve been aggressively paying off on a 15-year schedule).

    Bunning and the rest of the Republican jerks need to pull their heads out of their November 2012 election strategy and start taking care of the people of this country WHO PAY THEIR SALARIES!

    March 1, 2010 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  17. afp

    Hey, Senator Bunning... guess what I'm giving you right now?!

    March 1, 2010 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  18. Peter E

    While I do think the senator needs to answer questions about his politics, I can't help but wholeheartedly support everyone who puts the media in its proper place!

    March 1, 2010 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  19. maf

    Sure seems like Bunning and his GOP counterparts have the middle finger extended to the rest of America. If it's not good for the Party of NO then SCREW YOU!

    Mid-term elections and 2012 can't come soon enough for the obstructionists. Let them know your answer to their non-solution.

    March 1, 2010 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  20. ChrisM

    Did anyone see a video, or picture? No?!? That's because it didn't happen.

    March 1, 2010 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  21. Michael, Phoenix AZ

    Oh, pardon my last comment....too rude....But he was just showing his IQ to the press!

    March 1, 2010 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  22. Terry

    More people should treat the vulture sadistic press that way maybe then they'd realize they have to earn respect and not be soly be concerned with making a story out of nothing. WHAT'S THE REAL TRUTH HERE? It's not about denying people benefits but how to pay for them!

    March 1, 2010 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  23. Chuck

    He was a jerk when he played ball and still is a jerk a Senator. Sounds to me like his age is getting the best of him!!!!!

    March 1, 2010 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  24. bobbby

    this guy bunning is nothing but gop scum!!!!!!

    March 1, 2010 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  25. James M. Holmes

    Need anymore proof that the GOP doesn't care about the middle class or average Americans out of work (nevermind the fact it's the GOP's fault the economy crashed and these people are out of work in the first place)?

    CNN, why isn't this obstructionism the top story? How much GOP antics that hurt actual Americans do you need to see until you start reporting on the OBSTRUCTIONISM of the Republican Party?

    DO YOUR JOBS!!! Tell the American people the truth about why nothing is getting done in DC to help their everyday lives!!! The GOP is overturning the will of the American people from the last TWO elections and you report on NONE of it!

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