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. SRD

    Typical Republican mentality. The people in KY could use this help as much if not more than the rest of the country. He is a terrible representative for his constituents and a terrible example of someone who doesn't care about policy and only cares about making a point.

    March 1, 2010 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  2. Blue

    He's done! Ky must insist that he resign.

    March 1, 2010 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  3. Heather in Texas

    Who ever votes for one more Republican in office is CRAZY...they are the one who are using the ones who are not up for reelections and have nothing to loose politically to cripple our country....GO TO HELL REPUBLICANS I WILL GIVE MY VOTE TO A MONKEY BEFORE I GIVE ANY REPUBLICAN MY VOTE....

    March 1, 2010 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  4. gg

    @Dumbasrocks [R]s: "Not sure what the broohaha is all about. Bunning was merely conveying the sum-total IQ of all his supporters."

    If you include the rest of the Republicans, we start getting into negative numbers.

    March 1, 2010 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |

    Senate Elevator? Giving someone the finger sounds like a spoiled brat to me.

    March 1, 2010 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  6. Chuck

    Lets see, would that qualify as a 3rd grade, or pushing it, perhaps a 7th grade response?

    March 1, 2010 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  7. Pat Gander

    Dont know if Bunning genuinely cares about the deficits. BUT somebody has to, because if governement cant find money for the benefits, at some point the bond markets will PUNISH the Treasury for its mismanagement and interest rates will SPIKE. and then all of you who rail against Bunning could very well be in the unemployment lines. Its not a Repub versus Democrat issue but somebody needs to watch the deficit NOW !!

    March 1, 2010 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  8. Read the constitution

    Maybe he was doing a re-creation of what Obama is doing to the constituion or to balanced budgets.

    You obama sheep are hilarious.

    March 1, 2010 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    CORE FAMILY VALUES AT WORK!! Remember America...the Taliban wants you to die....the Taliban cheered when Chicago lost the bid for the Olympic Games...and the Taliban brings you hate, fear and lies....just like Jim Bunning does...

    March 1, 2010 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  10. Mike

    He didn't flash the middle finger intending to make an obscene gesture. He was merely calling for the fastball.

    March 1, 2010 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  11. Frank

    You're a real class act there Bunning. A real piece of work. Congress has just gone to hell and I am ashamed that I voted some of these jokers in office.

    March 1, 2010 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  12. VernisRobertson

    I don't understand why are these Republican so angry . For 8 longs years the American people sat back and watch the Republicans run this country into the ground .Only people they should be at are themselves. Or could it be , that the good ole boy system is on lock down . Or they could be mad , at the nations first black President. Are they mad because the gas prices are not $5.00 a gallon .

    March 1, 2010 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  13. What???

    Peggy – TX

    " 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."

    I hope this is in jest.... If not, please crawl back under the rock you oozed out from under. Real Kentuckians have tried for years to get this guy out of office, but like you, his backers lack the education and political knowledge to make good decisions.

    March 1, 2010 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  14. brynn ludel

    Him along with many other people are giving the government a bad name. There are many ways to get a point across, for some like jim he chose the wrong way.

    March 1, 2010 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  15. Greg in Cabot, AR

    Bunning will get his FAT retirement pension that I paid for, his FAT medical plan that I paid for and retire back to the hills of Kentucky to live the good life...........

    How about blocking pay and his pension until there is a balanced budget or we "find" the money to pay is salary and pension!!

    March 1, 2010 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  16. Sebastian

    I think Republican are endagering US super power status and the very essence of federalism.

    March 1, 2010 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  17. Good grief

    Stay classy, Republicans (the party of family values – LMAO).

    March 1, 2010 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  18. Steve in Seattle

    Unfortunately Mr. Bunning, you represent but just a few in Congress that understand we cannot spend our way out of debt, and we cannot tax our way to prosperity. Keep up the fight sir, my children and my childrens' children are counting on your leadership.

    March 1, 2010 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  19. Charles W. Skinner

    Who was it, who just a few weeks ago was lecturing Congress on PAYGO? Oh yes, it was President Obama at the State of the Union Address, and the Democrat members all stood up and applauded.

    Now, that they have the opportunity to put their votes where their mouths are and pay for a program that "everybody supports", they can't seem to get the votes to make a cut somewhere else. The Hypocrisy of the Democrat party is astounding, and Sen. Bunning has exactly the right idea on calling them out on it.

    If Sen. Reid want's to have a serious televised discussion on the Bush Tax cuts with ANY supply-side economist, they would WIPE THE FLOOR with him. Tax cuts for those who ACTUALLY PAY TAXES ALWAYS (without fail) stimulate the economy, because individuals use that money to purchase goods, invest in business and generate commerce. The sheer gain in taxable revenue paid for the supposed "cuts."

    The Republicans aren't the party of NO. It's the party of HELL NO and is proud of it. The Democrat party will suffer heavy losses in November, and we'll get back to a center-right Congress representative of the country.

    March 1, 2010 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  20. Indy

    Whats the big deal ? Republicans have been giving America the finger for the past nine years, as well they have been giving the finger to the rest of the world for longer then that.

    March 1, 2010 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  21. Ridgeway

    Good for him. And how about the truth. Bunning asked where the money was coming from to pay the extention. Imagine asking a question like that of the Liberal Dems. Crap, this isn't a bottomless money well. And who's checking to see who's really looking for work? ACORN?

    March 1, 2010 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  22. Anonymous

    Typical Bible Belt, GOP Hypocrite. Middle digit right back to you, Senator, and may you rot in hell!

    March 1, 2010 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  23. Bob

    The Republican Party is getting more redneck all the time. This gesture goes back to ancient times. The Romans called it "digitus obscenicus."

    March 1, 2010 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  24. VernisRobertson

    All jokes aside , the Republicans been giving the american people the finger for a long time . so finger back at you .

    March 1, 2010 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  25. Jay

    Folks, he didn't just give the finger to the press - HE GAVE THE FINGER TO ALL AMERICANS! Write, e-mail and call this classless clown's office and let him know we are fed up with grandstanding by either party. Get to work Congress or get the hell out!

    March 1, 2010 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
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