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. normajean

    This man should be on the floor and I don't men the Senate floor.To think that this vulgar self-centered man is a Senator is sickening in the extreme. When we as a nation are in a position of having to depend on vermin of this ilk to make the laws we live by it is revolting. Can this man[?} not be impeached.? I am surprised that even the Republicans aren't working to put this man in the unemployment line. Does nothing phase those Repubs, no matter how disgusting?NOTHING?

    March 1, 2010 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  2. poopee

    well omama just runs around trying to push that health care crap down our throats. jobs jobs jobs why can;t u all understand we need ur butts working on jobs man!!!!!!

    March 1, 2010 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  3. Just Me

    I find it funny that normally you'd see all the Repubs out here defedning their man but they're strangly quiet about this? What's wrong GOP? Having problems accepting the actions of your own?!

    March 1, 2010 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  4. sir magneto

    "The war is over Lebowski – the bums lost"

    March 1, 2010 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |

    I saw the CNN clip of this buffoon. What a weasel. The whole criminal Republican mob stinks to high headven. Did McConnell force this idiot out because he won't bend to the Great Leader's will?

    March 1, 2010 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  6. John in WV

    Hell hath no fury like a republican scourned.

    March 1, 2010 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  7. Jerry

    Wake up Kentucky! Who is your senator? That is how “old and settled” representatives care for us – average US citizens – just “flip them”. Shame.

    March 1, 2010 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  8. Joan

    Do you wonder what these Republican senators are made of. These are the same ones that have no compassion for their fellow Americans. What do they care if 40,000 Americans will die this years because they don't have health care. You wonder how they sleep at night.


    March 1, 2010 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  9. Mark

    I thought the Senate had 99 other members. Did any of the others vote? How does one vote, from the minority party, stop the overwhelming majority from success. Dem's need to get their act together and stop blaming a party that doesn't have the numbers to stop them.

    March 1, 2010 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  10. Scott

    Just wondering how those without jobs in Kentucky feel about their representitive? How much are WE paying this guy? What are his retirement benefits?

    March 1, 2010 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  11. anotherGDlefty

    That pesky mainstream media and their darn questions........

    He'll be on Fox Opinion Channel later tonight talking about how he was attacked...............He'll then go on to spin that he's actually helping people pull themselves up by their bootstraps by denying them assistance. Hannity will agree and make a "socialist" remark and after the break....boobies.

    Stay classy Bunny.

    March 1, 2010 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  12. Dennis

    The arrogance of Senator Bunning is astounding. At this point, all I can say is that I despise this man as well as all of the other senators and representatives who are refusing to find solutions. There is fault on both sides, but I am now convinced that reelection is far more important to the republicans than doing anything in support of our citizens.

    March 1, 2010 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  13. He threw a perfect game in 1964, now 46 years later . . .

    He throws a tantrum.

    March 1, 2010 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  14. alex

    First of all, his behavior as a senator is terrible. And he should be ashamed of himself. But the bill that he voted against. How can we give away money that WE dont HAVE! I don't get it. People need to stop living outside of their means and get a job at the local Mcdonalds. I feel for these people. So many nice people have lost their jobs and their livlihood. But, that doesn't mean I have to start paying for them losing their job. Thats life, deal will it.

    March 1, 2010 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  15. kate

    As a fiscal conservative myself I believe Senator Bunning to be a disgrace to this great nation. He is a spineless, classless, clueless and immature bully.

    If Mr. Bunning is sincere in cutting $10 billion then I'm sure he will cut all of the pork projects he acquired for KY. I'm sure he would support cutting the rest of the $10 billion from KY's federal assistance programs.

    March 1, 2010 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  16. MonasteryMonkey

    Tell these news hounds to give it a rest. Bunning was recorded on C-SPAN Friday night when all this went down. He has since stated no opposition to the extensions – he wants them paid for.

    Let's call his bluff and raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans and see where he stands then.

    March 1, 2010 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  17. Jessica @ work in IL


    March 1, 2010 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  18. Free Bird

    Here's me giving all of you First Amendment Haters, the Bird. Free Bird baby, its protected by the First.

    March 1, 2010 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  19. I've read the Constitution

    Maybe he was doing a re-creation of what Bush and the rest of the criminal Republicans have been doing to the Constituion and to our country for decades.

    You hard core reactionaries would be hilarious, if you weren't such a danger to our freedom.

    March 1, 2010 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  20. Carol

    I can't help but wonder if Sen. Bunning does not have some dementia or mental health issues going on. I'm not saying this to be mean, but it seems the last few years his personlity has changed...I've seen him in person at rallies ove the years. Maybe he needs a good medical checkup including cognitive evaluation.

    March 1, 2010 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  21. ATL Guy

    That's what you can expect if you vote the Republicans and their Tea Party friends back into power in 2010 and 2012. There are so many IOUs riding on these guys getting back into power that regular citizens will get flipped the bird. Apart from not tackling healthcare reform, there will be no financial reform, green jobs etc. If anything, they'll just enable big business to continue with their bad behaviors.

    March 1, 2010 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  22. Alvin and the chipmunks

    Time to impeach this braindead traitor.

    March 1, 2010 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  23. Lydia Negron

    What does he care?

    He's retiring soon and just wants to make sure his retirement is not infringed in any way.

    After all, it's so unfair for him to give up anything so others can eat.

    The hubris of the unemployed!

    March 1, 2010 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  24. marty

    Mr Bunning is as disgusting as the Joe Wilsons, the Dick Cheneys et al who makes a mockery of the title honorable. He is another example of dishing it out but can't take it. Send him on a fact finding trip to Siberia.

    March 1, 2010 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  25. What the Huh!

    You self hating Liberals are so easy. We throw a bird your way and you go into a rage. I don't know why many of you are so mad at Bunning about the unemployment issue. Most of you have probably never worked long enough to collect unemployment anyway and have been living off of welfare most of your adult lifes. There is a good side to this. Thousands of Federal government loafers have been furloughed without pay.

    March 1, 2010 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
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