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. suresh

    Is anybody really surprised the way these Republicans behave? They think they own this country. That is why after Obama's election to the White House, this talk about " Taking our country back". How did we lose our country in the last election? Or is it because Obama is African American? GOP has become party of racists old white men. It is a pity for Lincoln and Eisenhower party.

    March 1, 2010 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  2. BKrause

    Nothing less is expected from these stellar representatives of the "American way."

    March 1, 2010 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  3. Laura - San Francisco

    I sent an email to his website yesterday condoning his behavior on the extension of unemployment benefits vote. Everyone should do the same. What an embarrassment for the state of Kentucky that he “represents” them.

    March 1, 2010 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  4. classichorse

    Just what Kentucky needs at this time in the Commonwealth's history! A great ambassador for the 'sport.'

    March 1, 2010 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  5. mike

    Why's this news? The GoP has been giving the finger to the public for years now ....

    March 1, 2010 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  6. Kim

    Just another republican idiot. When will America figure out the party of NO needs to GO. At least this jerk knows sign language.

    March 1, 2010 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  7. DJW

    since the Federal Gov't is broke maybe he should not receive his pension when he ends his tenure.!!! Let's start a forum on this !!

    March 1, 2010 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  8. EDDIE

    What a piece of "YOU KNOW WHAT".I hope he knows he got the finger from everyone he screwd.WoW.What point is making by doing this.

    March 1, 2010 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  9. InModeration

    Sometimes, I wish I have a way to read people's minds and see the way they think and decide.

    March 1, 2010 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  10. Nik

    Well the Old and Ugly dont know how it is to survive on an unemployment money. He surely have had his NINE kids well placed at their jobs/business using OUR MONEY. Insane.
    Its disturbing that even in 2010, Entire USA is hostage to One OLD Angry Useless Senator. People like Bunning will No Doubt harm US economy. China and India, both Fastest Growing Economy, will be laughing at US, just because of this OLD Jerk.

    We should have a rule to FORCE RETIRE ANY GOV EMP OF AGE ABOVE 75.


    March 1, 2010 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  11. Robert

    Someone in Congress needs to slap the snot out of this idiot. In the 19th century there was a Senator who beat another with a cane so badly he almost died. I am not advocating that type of violence, but a few black eyes and bloody nose would be just fine with me....

    March 1, 2010 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  12. Bippy

    Isn't that why they call the GOP the "Angry Old White Men Club"?

    March 1, 2010 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  13. hillcoguy

    It's no big deal, after all, 0'bama IS shutting down NASA so thats another 26,000 jubs added to the count! Guess those are jobs he's "SAVING" for future use!

    March 1, 2010 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  14. Laverne

    The republican party in a whole are basically giving a middle finger to the American people. Nothing new here, keep moving people!

    March 1, 2010 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  15. Sadie

    This man needs to be removed from his office......he had the balls to block a vote then he should have the balls to stand before the cameras and explain his discission.....without giving the finger to the reporters.......what a low life........if the other Republicans don't stand up to this man and his discission to end thousands of jobs than they all stand to be on the same side as this dumb idiot.......they all will suffer from this one man's stupid move if they don't counter his vote......

    March 1, 2010 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  16. susanj

    He's a senile old white man from Kentucky that should be kicked out of Congress. What a dirt ball. Doesn't give a crap about this country or the people suffering from lack of jobs. I can't stand the GOP. They all make me sick.

    March 1, 2010 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  17. George Sales

    See what we in Louisville (the only blue city in this "red" neck state) have to deal with? Mitch ( Mr. Retug obstructionist ) McConnell and Bunning, the crass idiot. What an embarrassing pair from Kentucky! This reenforces the argument for an educated populace. Kentucky is on or near the bottom when it comes to high school and collage graduates. Well, you get the picture and we get the government we deserve!

    March 1, 2010 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  18. jag

    That's the what the GOP says to American's on anything .....The Party of NO, unless it puts money in their pockets from ours.

    March 1, 2010 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  19. Toni

    Stay classy, Jim.

    March 1, 2010 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  20. Joseph

    Good for Senator Bunning!!! At least he has the courage to DO what everyonereally wants to do to the media.

    How DARE Bunning make the LEFT LIVE UP TO THEIR OWN RULES...

    Bunning for president.

    March 1, 2010 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  21. Pete

    Mr. Bunning needs to be reprimanded for potentially stranding many destitute people legintimate or not. This is very poor leadership.

    March 1, 2010 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  22. marty

    voters in Ky need to throw this heartless racist jerk out of the senate.

    March 1, 2010 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  23. Jeffc6578

    This guy is pure grade-A republican hypocrite scum.

    March 1, 2010 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  24. Joy

    Not very dignified of the Senator, but he already explained his decision, and I happen to agree with him although I am one of the millions of Americans on unemployment. (Thank you very much congress for creating the worst economy since the 70s) Looks to me like they were just harassing him. Think I'd react the same way. From what I've seen in congress this year, giving the finger to the press is mild. Example: Martha Coakley's staffer (a DNC operative) pushing a news reporter to the ground.

    March 1, 2010 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  25. rigo

    that was un-nessary. that makes all the republicans. look bad

    March 1, 2010 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
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