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. LetsBeCivil

    Senator Bunning was answering a question about his IQ – 1.

    March 1, 2010 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  2. ken from holland, pa

    typical republican. angry, clueless and a complete jerk. lacks the ability to remember the recent past and always believes in party before country. i love how all of these republicans are playing the debt game now. maybe 8 years too late? that's ok jim, we don't have to fund the wars we got into. and the countless other initiatives under Bush/Cheney. but take away an extension for americans who are down on their luck and lost their job due to the republican philosphy of an unregulated freemarket where anything goes. what a complete jerk.

    ps-don't come back to philly. and hopefully, the phillies can remove any remnance that you ever player here.

    "Deficits Do Not Matter"-Dick Cheney

    March 1, 2010 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  3. David

    Complete idiot! I am ashame to be a Republican. He should be fired. What a sore OLD loser

    March 1, 2010 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  4. sd

    Just another expression of those good old family values.

    March 1, 2010 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  5. chedar

    Dirty old man!

    March 1, 2010 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  6. Just Me

    This man needs to be on the unemployment line. While the media could be a pain in the rear, in his case, the media has a right to ask this fool why he is holding up unemployment benefits for the American people.

    Who does he thinks he is? Shouldn't there be some kind of punishment for this shameful display? I would hope so.

    March 1, 2010 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  7. dude

    Take some personal responsibilty man.

    Sack up.

    March 1, 2010 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  8. Jim

    it seems to me that this is the sort of care that our republican representatives have been giving us all for a number of years. it's time the republicans begin being part of the solution instead of being part of the problem.

    March 1, 2010 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  9. exrepublican in Houston

    A true repugnantcan.

    March 1, 2010 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  10. Marie MD

    bunning is a first class jerk!! It must be nice to have a cozy job with healthcare and all the perks of being a Senator. I wonder how the DOT employees feel knowing that he was instrumental for their furloughs.
    If there's an irresponsible fool in Congress he should look in the mirror.
    I wish the people of Kentucky would throw him and mcconnell (I think that's his name) out of not just office, but out of the State.

    March 1, 2010 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  11. .skip

    yeah sounds like the real answer to american problems .i think washington has been doing this to all of its citizen for to long .

    March 1, 2010 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  12. sammieb51

    Well that's 'transparent' as it gets ha? Score one for the Oh So Tactful and Civil Republicans! Forget about being 'politically correct' - what happened to simple decency?

    March 1, 2010 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  13. KAB

    Wow, that WAS really an angry response!!! Maybe if he had not included "Excuse me", it would not have been considered angry. I mean really what has gotten into the senator??? I'm completely sympathetic when people loose their jobs. It has happened to me. BUT the federal government is broke, busted, and has no money so we absolutely cannot continue to pay out money on all these entitlement programs. I'm glad to see someone saying "NO". The government spends money like it is monoply money. What is the government going to do when China says "No more loans"? Go bankrupt???

    March 1, 2010 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  14. James Banks

    Maybe if you liberal reporters from CNN, ABC, CBS, MSNBC etc. would stop being so partisan in the way you go after politicians he wouldn't have been compelled to give you the finger. But in the end, it doesn't really make any difference, because the American people have finally woken up to the rampant LIBERAL BIAS at CNN. You are not journalists. You are an embarassment to journalism. Your ratings reflect this.

    March 1, 2010 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  15. Cliff

    Finally....someone who has the "big ones" to stand up against more debt!
    Now, if the other 99 would "grow some" and end the on-going SPENDULUS of the current Administration.
    Change we can't AFFORD!!!!

    March 1, 2010 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  16. TexAl

    Yeah, well, Bunning sounds like a jerk, but he does have a point. I thought Congress and Obama agreed to PayGo, and if they can't do it for this simple measure, just about everything coming down the pike will be an "emergency", right?

    But he does sound like a rather grouchy fellow . . .

    March 1, 2010 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  17. Mike in MN

    A Senator like Bunning should control his temper better when in public and interacting with the press. Flipping off the press won't help him make his point.
    But I have to admit if Bunning is angry about the Democrat's out of control borrowed spending, I feel exactly the same way.
    And where are all the Democrats that complained about the Bush 400 billion dollar deficits? Why are they not 3 or 4 times more angry about the Obama 2009 1.3 trillion dollar defiict, or his projected 1.56 and 1.3 trillion 2010 and 2011 deficits? Everyone in this country should be equally angry over these deficits, no matter if they are a Democrat or a Republican or a progressive or a conservative. Republicans should have been upset over the Bush deficits and Democrats should be even more upset over the Obama deficits.
    So what all the progressives, who clarly don't care about the deficits, are telling us conservatives is we are on our own when it comes to tackling the deficits. That will be the biggest reason why a fisical conservative, center right majority of American voters are going to vote the Democrats out of office in Novemeber.

    March 1, 2010 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  18. C. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Bunning reportedly has a mental illness problem and shouldn't be on the floor.

    March 1, 2010 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  19. Roger, Texas

    I can understand why Sen. Bunning got upset when reporters held up his elevator when trying to get an interview. After all, Sen. Bunning was only trying to get a lift up. Oh, the irony!

    March 1, 2010 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  20. Jan

    Maybe he was late for a basketball game. I am wondering if I will be able to send him my bills for him to pay after my husband does not get his unemployment check.

    March 1, 2010 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  21. Fred Dobbs

    Typical Republican. How dare anyone from the press or the public question him or his motives, for after all his is a conservative and he knows what is best for all mankind. Tremble before his senatorial power.

    March 1, 2010 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  22. Kari Cook

    Although most of us would love to give the finger to politicians in Washington, the second deserving profession currently would be the press/journalists. So what...I am sick of them all.

    March 1, 2010 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  23. john

    Maybe it's time to give this senator the finger(wave bye). He cares nothing about the average American and shows it by in a sense giving us all the finger. So why should we care about putting him out of work with the rest of us. Let's return the favor and give him the finger.

    March 1, 2010 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  24. Tony in Maine

    Typical Republican. In his mind greed trumps doing what is right.

    March 1, 2010 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  25. The End of an Error

    Ladies and Gentlemen, the Republicans in a nutshell.

    March 1, 2010 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
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