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. joel palmer

    The GOP lunatics are now represented by a certifiably insane Right Wing Nut Job from Kentucky (no not McConnell, the other RWNJ). Bunning is a few eggs short of an omelette and will be gone soon; good riddance

    March 1, 2010 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  2. Jilli

    Why aren't there any republicans commenting on Bunnings outrageous behavior? I would think it's the least they could do. They should be riding this clown like a pony. But as usual, they're silent. Pathetic.

    March 1, 2010 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  3. Leonardo

    Getting a little testy are we, Senator Bunning?
    Stop playing games, let the Senate do an up or down vote.
    Quit playing politics when people everywhere are hurting.

    March 1, 2010 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  4. Angi

    I am democrate. But here I agree with KY senator.

    March 1, 2010 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  5. JohnRJ08

    Oh yeah, let's replace that "growing lack of fiscal responsibility" with soulless indifference toward hard-working Americans who have lost their jobs in this terrible downturn. Bunning is the classic ideologue, like many of his Republican colleagues. He views the world through an ideological prism and sees no humanity at all. As a result, he himself has no humanity. He's just another empty-suit taking up oxygen in the Congress.

    March 1, 2010 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  6. BEnglish

    Senator Bunning was apparently displaying his IQ with his jesture to the reporters. What a hypocritical bigot!! The whole state of Kentucky should be embarrassed and recall this idiot. This is from a Rebublician – but I am wondering how long I can say this.

    March 1, 2010 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  7. Randy, San Francisco

    Bunning is just another GOP hypocrite with boorish behavior.

    March 1, 2010 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  8. joel palmer

    Bunning is a certifiable lunatic

    March 1, 2010 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  9. Robin Bray

    In our home only my disabled son has a part time job. We have worked all our lives, paid our taxes in full and this is how we are treated. Greatest nation on earth. I don't think so. I hope the Senator enjoys his paycheck. Perhaps he can give himself and the rest of the senate a "voice vote only" raise again.

    March 1, 2010 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  10. all political parties blow hot air, dump 'em all

    Oh Jimmy Boy, you sure can stir a pot.

    Don't be mad at him. He's doing what his constituents want. The only problem is that his constituents didn't realize this would affect them. You want to be angry? Be angry with the people of Kentucky who elected this clown. They thought all this money talk was pie in the sky, not actual hard dollars that keep them fed (remember KY has a respectably high proportion of unemployed). So, they want those worthless thugs on welfare (oops, unemployment) to be thrown to the street...and now they're mad they're in the street. They thought it would only affect the black folks, I guess, or else the "illegal immigrants" (please folks, the proper term is illegal aliens, thanks).

    Now I happen to think using stimulus money to fund this bill is an EXCELLENT idea, especially as we have so much of it in local communities that is not being used (says the Cincinnati Enquirer). Let's use it however we need to, in order to maintain jobs or unemployment/COBRA benefits. Anything less is unAmerican, even if it is Kentuckian.

    Jimmy Boy, I'm sure glad I don't live next door to ya. I'd say watch out for eggs, but your fine constituency can't afford 'em, lol

    March 1, 2010 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  11. Laurie

    Why is this news worthy? Did you have an appointment with the guy?

    Not that I agree with his vote....but still....what a waste of space for all we have going on in the world.

    March 1, 2010 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  12. Darlene

    I am from Kentucky and I can say that this man is NUTS!!!!! He is an embarrassment to Kentucky residents. This is not the first time he has acted this way..he needs to retire.....TODAY!!!!

    March 1, 2010 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  13. Terry - Indiana

    If you do not believe we have a crisis in Washington, take a moment to check on all of the House and Senate Members who are bailing out, like rats leaving a sinking ship. Thanks to real-time news, the gold bricks we sent to Washington cannot go to the bathroom without fearing the press, and exposure is giving American Voters a new look at the folks they voted into public office. If you believe that Washington is in touch with the grass root folks back home, you need to get out more.

    March 1, 2010 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |

    Typical "Out of Touch Republican" with a "Holy Than Thou" attitude. It's okay under the Bush administration to spend, spend, spend, but now all of a sudden we need fiscal responsibility.

    March 1, 2010 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  15. Duck Fallas

    Bunning and McCain should have a bitter, angry, old guy contest.

    March 1, 2010 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  16. GOPer

    He is flipping off all those Americans who need help in time of crisis.

    What a poor excuse for an American.

    March 1, 2010 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  17. Florida Dude

    Republicans have been giving the finger to working Americans for years so I say to the reporter..."Welcome to the club"

    March 1, 2010 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  18. Ethan


    This is the Republican Party.

    ...Filibustering UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE, the last gasp of support for unemployed Americans.

    ...Filibustering doctor's pay for medicare, triggering a 21% cut in Medicare fees to doctors, effective immediately.

    Then, when confronted, what does Fluffy Little Bunning do?


    Come November we have to remember this stunt by Fluffy Little Bunning and the pathetic games the Republican Party plays with every single issue, putting PARTY before COUNTRY.

    We need to remember that these actions have not only NOT HELPED unemployed Americans, doctors, and medicare patients; but they have literally DIRECTLY HURT these people.

    Let's remember 8 months from now that when the GOP was directly hurting Americans and breaking the Congress, the Democratic Party was busy trying to give EVERY SINGLE AMERICAN STABLE, AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE for the first time in HISTORY.

    March 1, 2010 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  19. Embarrassed

    Let me just say that, as a resident of Kentucky, I am mortified by the undignified behavior of our junior senator. He should be censured for unbecoming conduct immediately - and if possible sent home in disgrace. I cannot believe that he has kept getting elected from this state.

    March 1, 2010 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  20. CTurner

    Aw, c'mon, he was just calling for an inside fastball.

    March 1, 2010 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  21. debra

    We appreciate you Senator Bunning!!!

    March 1, 2010 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  22. sam

    Gee, so a republican does that and it is reported right away. But it seems, per the London Guardian, that Obama was told to cut back on the alchohol and no report. Rham and the "R" took months to surface. Maybe the questions were biased, impertinant and not fit for answering.

    March 1, 2010 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  23. Chris D.

    Horrible.......the unemployed didn't ask to be that way.......The free market failed them......And now government is doing the same!!!!!
    Shame on the GOP........Mr. Bunning I respect what you did for Major League baseball........For the United States.....not so much.

    March 1, 2010 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  24. rs

    Typical Republican. "It's all about me!"

    March 1, 2010 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  25. Bill

    So CNN "reached out" to Bunning's office for comment. What a gentle way to put such a prying act. I know a senator is a public figure and fair game for the news media. Just don't try to Whitewash yourselves. Call it what it is, Paparazzi.

    March 1, 2010 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
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