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. Mitch

    The GOP have been shooting the finger to the president, the Democrats, democracy, the constitution, the American people...Bunning in one gesture has summed up the Republican position on everything.

    March 1, 2010 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  2. NC

    Maybe Senator Bunning needs to retire now because he is losing control.

    March 1, 2010 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  3. Leslie

    Typical low-class Republican move.

    March 1, 2010 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    "My commitment is health reform that empowers patients and not Washington."

    Forgot the second part of the sentence: "...which is why I'm a Republican Senator trying to limit patients' rights to sue doctors who commit malpractice." You know, because deregulating the industry to give the giant corporations like insurance companies more wiggle room while simultaneously taking away patients' recourse for abuse and negligence...that "empowers patients."

    March 1, 2010 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  5. Repugnants are Taliban

    Why do these actions surprise anyone, it is just typical Repugliban actions in full view, remember Repugliban Cheney doing the same thing?

    March 1, 2010 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  6. Kacey

    Boy, the Republicans sure have made themselves look foolish this year. Bunning is just fitting in with the GOP. THUG!

    March 1, 2010 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |

    obscene gesture? so all 0of the sudden we have gotten thin skinned when someone flips us off?

    well how about them dems flipping the majority of the people off by jamming the health care bill thru

    another double standards set by the left and when are they going to get rid of pelosis lover rangle for being a lying cheating steamy pile

    March 1, 2010 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  8. Dingo

    What a suprise? A republican senator being a jerk and screwing over average americans?

    Hmm sounds like 2000-2008, but hey, they're patriotic and real 'mericans. Why is "little jimmy" is so angry, I'll bet it's becasue he can raise his middle finger but he can't raise much else.....

    March 1, 2010 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  9. Allison30

    Real respectable..........glad he's going!

    March 1, 2010 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  10. Flex

    Grow up, bigot Bunning!

    Boycott republican fly over states!

    March 1, 2010 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  11. Sniffit

    Wild speculation: Bunning was forced into throwing himself on his sword by the rest of the party. He drew the shortest straw, so to speak. All th eother GOPers who, let's face it, could tell him to cut it out, now get to don snide smiles and pretend their hands are clean.

    March 1, 2010 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  12. frank

    This is a senator, this is a sad day in america, no jobs and now he gives the finger to the american people, this is a SAD DAY.and not one republican, made a comment about it.what a shame.what a shame.

    March 1, 2010 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  13. Dwayne

    Yep! There goes that angry lynch mob attitude surfacing again. Hey Bunning, that's real professional. You're on the fast track buddy; your constituents must be so proud.

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

    How did one ole F.A.R.T. block this bill? I hope he has nightmares of all the children and babies who may not have food because of his decision. If anyone vote for a republican again, they are in serious trouble. What waste of people. I pay taxes to help people in my country. And contrary to what many may think, social programs are not easy to be accepted for. Sure we need to weed some of them out but look at the American citizens who are suffering that worked in this country and paid taxes. Some are ex service people of our country. I can not understand how so many people can be so heartless.

    March 1, 2010 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  15. HypocriCNN = B.S.

    Now Isn't That Interesting, Senator Jim (Ole Jimbo) Bunning Even Thinks That HypocriCNN & ABC (Conservitive Leaning) News Are #1....With A Finger! On A More Serious Note, HisMiddle Finger Point Is Only Describing His Behavior That We Never Thought Existed Until Now. Insert:~Shock & Awe!~

    March 1, 2010 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  16. Dean

    This is part of the Repubs' "populist appeal." Their base has this kind of attitude toward people, so it's only natural that their elected officials treat others this way too. Great American role models? I think not?

    March 1, 2010 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  17. Judi Lumpkin

    All I want to know is what time dinner is going to be served at the Bunning house because my husband and son and I will have to come there to eat dinner every night if Mr. Bunning succeeds in what he is doing.

    Judi Lumpkin

    March 1, 2010 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  18. Navy Vet

    It's time to replace all of them. People are tire of all of your old crusty butts.

    March 1, 2010 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  19. please

    "I have to get to the floor to make sure no progress is made and keep struggling Americans struggling. Out of My way, I'm important!!!"

    March 1, 2010 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  20. ran

    He is gone and could care less what his action does to others. This should be a clear signal to all: that enough is enough of the fear/hate/obstructionist/purity Republicans.

    We need to send a loud and clear message by not voting in a single Republican in 2010 and vote for either a true Democrat or Independent.

    March 1, 2010 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  21. Chandler

    His party gives the American people the middle finger, so is it any surprise? I am glad that CNN is covering the immature grandstanding by this Senator. He has cost thousands of people their COBRA coverage...and once a person loses insurance coverage they are very vulnerable to losing coverage in the future because of pre-existing condition laws.

    March 1, 2010 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  22. Bob

    Ever get the feeling politicians are running for their lives? Im telling you folks, 2010 midterms are going to rattle the entire system. There is a storm gathering and everyone but Washington can see it.

    March 1, 2010 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  23. Randolph Carter, I'm no expert but....

    It's getting so I can't tell these angry, fat, rich white men apart. Where do they get a seemingly endless supply of them? They all look alike and think alike. I kinda think that they clone them from old Nixon toenail clippings in the secret underground laboratory of the RNC. Have a nice day!

    March 1, 2010 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  24. RanMan

    So he gave them the finger......Thats what the entire Liberal MSM and Deomcrats did to FOX News many times over...

    March 1, 2010 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  25. Doug, NC

    A true republican, worry about money for the poor if it impacts the deficit but spend for two wars, a tax cut for the rich, subsidies for big business. oh yes compassionate conservatism

    March 1, 2010 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17