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. CommonSense09

    Senator Bunning has just joined the party of Dick, Rush, Hannity and Glen......basic KKK members without their freaking sheets on!

    March 1, 2010 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  2. Sniffit

    Republican strategery: We're going to break government every time you put the Dems in charge, so you might as well elect us instead. We might kill your children with needless wars and allow corporate America to rape you like a cheap "Roxxxie doll," but that's better than our corporate cronies crashing the economy, firing everyone to create an unemployment problem, refusing to rehire anyone until talk of punishing or reining in their abuses goes away and getting no help from the gov't in the meantime for your tax dollars because we filibuster EVERYTHING, isn't it?

    March 1, 2010 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  3. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Wolf says Bunning walked away and shot his middle finger over his head.

    And there's the picture to go with the caption that should say: " The GOP stands for I got mine good luck getting yours".

    Senator Reid was a day late and a dollar short with his comment regarding not neding the GOP to lecture the rest of us on what "Americuns" need. The Gop does NOT represent America nor do they have ANY idea of the struglles of regular Americans. They live in a different stratosphere far removed from common folks and it is indecent for them to keep spewing that line over and over.

    Bunning did not just flip the bird to the reporter, he and the GOP have been flipping America the bird for many years now.

    March 1, 2010 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  4. Rob in Detroit Mi.

    Another example of Republicans not giving a Dam about Working class Americans., take that Tea party put it in your Crack pipe & smoke it.

    March 1, 2010 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  5. Former Texan

    His behavior is so typical of the self-righteous right-wingers.... 'do as I say, not as I do'. What disgraceful behavior for a public official taking taxpayer dollars for all his benefits while he's in Congress and afterward with his fat retirement package..... and he has the nerve to deny benefits to unemployed Americans who probably paid more in taxes over the years than they collect.

    March 1, 2010 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  6. John

    Stick your finger where the sun don't shine and get used to sitting on it you useless lump.

    Obstructionist and hypocritical piece of filth...

    March 1, 2010 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  7. Avg Guy in Red State Kansas

    Ya just gotta love some cretin who rides the "Members Only" elevator and flouts his arrogance with his middle finger.

    Memo to Senator Bunning: That middle finger can also be used by your constituents to depress a voting lever!

    What a twitch!

    March 1, 2010 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  8. single mom

    Sounds like the reporters and their crews were getting in the way when a Senator was trying to get to the Senate floor and (OMG!) do his job. For crying out loud! They should have seized the moment and reported it as the rare occurence it is! (Heavy sarcasm for BOTH sides there!)

    Yeah, I know he's a politician, a senior senator, should know better, etc. He shouldn't have flipped the finger or 'muttered' what he did. But in the same circumstances I think a lot of us would have done the same thing, regardless of your political party. Unless you have the patience of a saint.

    March 1, 2010 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  9. James

    That sounds about right. he gave the finger to the unemployeed now he has given it to the rest of us.

    March 1, 2010 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  10. Robin in SC

    Thank God this one isn't from South Carolina! When I saw the headline, I just KNEW it would be DeMint or Graham!

    March 1, 2010 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  11. Kevin


    March 1, 2010 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  12. Dan

    He is making a statement. The Dems passed PAYGO and they don't want to live up to it..................CUT SPENDING.

    No one is going without compensation, this will be approved Wed. Bunning is just trying to point out hypocrisy. We are publicly saying we will pay for everything, privately we are saying "let's exempt this"

    March 1, 2010 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  13. Jan

    I hope you all catch the video of Jonathan and Dana getting screams ed at by the "distinguished" Senator from the Senator elevator. Jim Bunning is just disgusting.

    Why in the world would anyone vote for these Greedy Old P-ricks who are nothing more than a bunch of friggin' hypocrites? Gag.

    March 1, 2010 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  14. Tea K K

    Typical Rethug-too good and too important for the rest of us....if only we were ALL Old, Rich, White Men......

    March 1, 2010 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  15. Amazed

    Another classy Republican.

    Here's a classic, calssic case of the 'ole Republican motto: I'm fine, screw you.


    March 1, 2010 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  16. BillyD

    Lets not give him his retirement package and see how he feels!!!!!!!!!!

    March 1, 2010 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  17. Anonymous

    This guy is a straight up scumbag

    March 1, 2010 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  18. Mike

    The point that seems to be missing in all of this: "Excuse me! This is a Senator's only elevator!" is that senators and their facilities are all paid for by the people and for the good of the people. What senators often seem to forget is that they are there to serve the people and not the other way around!

    March 1, 2010 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  19. Keeth in California

    Class act!

    March 1, 2010 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  20. Bob

    What else can we expect form these republicans jerks.. The finger to Americans and no no no to anything, so they can get rid of Obama. If they would actually deal in truth, they can't stand the idea that a man of color is our president. So they will do anything or say anything to make sure Obama fails. Man I am so sick of politicians.

    March 1, 2010 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  21. An 8 year old ELEPHANT dung heap, does not transform into compost in just 1 year!

    Give 'em Hell, Harry!!

    What an unexpected display of a spine!

    March 1, 2010 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  22. The Party of No

    I think Bunning's display of his middle finger pretty much summarizes what he and the GOP thinks about helping the unemployed. May he get the same in return from his constituents the next time he is up for reelection.

    March 1, 2010 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  23. If I was crazy, I'd be a conservative too

    'Finger Man' also voted against "pay as you go," and now he is defending it.

    March 1, 2010 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  24. Anthony


    what else is new?

    March 1, 2010 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  25. Terry - Indiana

    I'm rich, your poor! I'm a US Senator, you are common laborer. I'm the one you listen to, you are the one I give the "finger". If you don't like it, don't vote for me. I have so much money from all of the kickbacks from healthcare insurance and pharmaceutical companies, I don't care if you dislike me. Did I give you the finger yet? Love, Senator Bunning

    March 1, 2010 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
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