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. Lynne - Euless

    Is there no limit to what these Republican peacocks will do to grab attention to themselves at the expense of the welfare of the country? This old gas bag is and will be causing pain to milions of people.

    March 1, 2010 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  2. John

    It sounds like the media (Paparazzi) were hounding him. I salute him for flipping the bird.

    "this appears to be Bunning's second outburst."
    – Wow, CNN, attack the guy for it. He has freedom of speech too.

    March 1, 2010 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  3. Dr_Rob

    What a TOTAL moron!!! Get him OUT OF HERE!

    March 1, 2010 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  4. lee

    Shocking, no these republicans makes me sick. Take away their jobs, money, and health insurance benefits and let them see how it feels to be at the lower end of the totum poll. They will see how the rest of us have to deal with this mess everyday.

    March 1, 2010 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  5. spenceteeth

    We the people blah blah blah have no power anymore. God Save us when the time comes.

    March 1, 2010 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  6. JohnRJ08

    Clearly, the man is insane. Perfect for the Republican Party.

    March 1, 2010 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  7. If I was crazy, I'd be a conservative too

    Ah yes, tolerance from the communist right.

    March 1, 2010 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  8. Sean

    These Republicans GOT TO GO! They are a disgrace to the American people. It was first Joe 'you lie' Wilson and now this. And they claim to be the high moral party. What a JOKE of a party. And you will have people still vote for these clowns. You even had a Repub in Ga. that had an affair with his wife's mother and the people still elected him to office. What are these people thinking. What are we telling our CHILDREN when these clowns do these things and give them our blessing by voting for them. It doesn't matter if you are a Dem or Repub, WRONG IS WRONG.

    March 1, 2010 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  9. Lynn

    Good show for a public servant. We pay his salary, he gives us the finger. Oh the arrogance of power.

    March 1, 2010 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  10. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    How does it feel Sen. Bunning to be ousted as someone taking food away from families' tables and have no where to hide, no one to blame, and no plausible excuses for doing so? And on top of everything else you're doing this on the eve of your retirement? so in other words, once again: you got yours, screw the rest of us.

    Democrats need to keep calling out the selfish obstructionists that do not bring alternatives to the table but are quick to block any relief effort for American citizens who are suffering because of the debauchery and "hidden costs" of the last administration.

    March 1, 2010 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  11. An Independent

    Ried is right. Bunning found his backbone to cut spending only after he and the rest of the republicans screwed up everything and left a mess for the rest of us. And now, unbelievably, they are doing everything they can to keep the democrats from fixing it. Republicans are in for a big suprise the election cycle when they'll lose even more seats.

    March 1, 2010 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  12. liberal wingnut

    Can't blame him. He just wants congress to pay for the unemployment verses borrow against it. A concept liberal idiots in this country are not understanding.

    March 1, 2010 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  13. Out with the old n with the new!!

    If you are apart of the baby bomer, give yourself a pat on the back, you are the cause of this lack luster over indulgent, Im better then you, humbleless, trim the fat so I can have it, cheating and stealing, lying, arogant, slimballish, Im getting mine f the rest, mentality that we are now plagued with. Where are the grandparents, parents who where suppost to teach our elders right from wrong. Apparently, the congress we have now where all apart of a generation where morals, fortitude, dignity and charcter was an after thought to money and power. Not only are the elders of our country paying for their mistakes, but now generations of children will pay for your explotations and greed. The youth is watching and we are learning and we no longer admire statesman. We oppose you.... Once the X generation comes of age, I hope we have enough country left to restore. Thanks Grampa for the huge mess!!!

    March 1, 2010 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  14. Joe from Mass.

    THis guy should just be kicked out, it's obvious he's on a personal rampage since he is planning on retiring and he no longer cares about voters or american citizens in general. This behavior is offensive and classless.

    March 1, 2010 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  15. Michael Hammar


    Do you have a large pension from Baseball and something from government? Are you getting paid currently to support your above average quality of life?

    Please let me know, uh?

    Thank you,

    March 1, 2010 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  16. 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.

    My bad – he is retiring. May he receive a standing middle finger on the way out the door.

    March 1, 2010 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  17. aw where's your sense of absurdity?

    That's funny! Poor people don't vote, anyway! And it's funny when they get evicted! Especially when rich people give them the finger! That makes it specially funny! Ha ha ha! Bunning, you're so funny!

    March 1, 2010 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  18. edward Gudas

    Has the Senator from Ky. thought about all the state and federal programs already in place which will be more over whelmed when people lose their benefits. We are just BARELY MAKING ENDS MEET, cutting theses benefits will burst open the flood gates to more foreclosures, food pantries being over run, bankruptcy filings will increase, no health( cobra) coverage means those people will wait till they are sick enough to warramt an E.R. visit. Senator Bunning PLEASE reconsider your actions and do what you were sent to Washington to do; work for the people!

    March 1, 2010 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  19. William Hardee

    that Sentor should be forced to resign . Millions of amercians need
    help he is what is wrong with washington

    March 1, 2010 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  20. Roger

    The shot of Bunning extending his middle finger perfectly captures the relationship between Republicans and the American public.

    March 1, 2010 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  21. Charlie B

    Was he giving the finger to a reporter or the American people?

    March 1, 2010 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  22. androloma

    Come re-election time, his constituents should reply in kind with a finger, instead of a vote. It's this kind of obstructionist, pro-corporate and anti-worker sentiment which needs to be destroyed by an outraged electorate.

    AMERICANS, WAKE UP! This elected representative does not advocate core values for his citizens. Please dispose of him properly.

    March 1, 2010 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  23. joe

    Of course you look at the list and see how many of these projects impact those in the dear senators home state....NONE....what a hack!

    March 1, 2010 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  24. Chipster

    More of that "Compassionate Conservatism"

    There's always enough money for conservatives to go to war or reward pharmaceutical companies by banning federal programs from negotiating lower prices or for insurance companies with big fat "donut holes" at the expense of seniors. But don't expect that "Compassion" to reach beyond corporate welfare programs to help people in need.

    As a member of the Senate, Bunning gets a nice, big pension and taxpayer funded health insurance for life!

    March 1, 2010 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  25. Pragmatic

    Obscene gestures and cursing are the last resort of the very desperate. Dick Cheney using the "f" word on the Senate floor and now, another republican in an indefensible position causing great hardship for the unemployed has only one thing to say: and it was wasn't pretty.

    Looks like the "r" word isn't the one Palin objected to ... the "r" word stands for rude republicans!

    March 1, 2010 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17