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. Barb

    I can only say that th behavior of Republicans recently has been disgracful and I don't understand why the American public is not outraged.

    March 1, 2010 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  2. Joe

    Ah yes, the old Republican finger. That's about all we ever get from them, isn't it? If they aren't screwing us, they tell us to go screw ourselves.

    March 1, 2010 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  3. Mike in jax

    Jim you are scum

    March 1, 2010 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  4. Drew, FL

    "Republican senator gives journalist the middle finger"

    This isn't news. Republicans have been giving the American people the finger for a long time now. So what's another journalist to them?

    March 1, 2010 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  5. Obama Victim

    the obscene gesture is clearly inappropriate...yet it is refreshing to see someone..anyone.. stand up against more spending

    March 1, 2010 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  6. republicans hate america

    where was he when he was approving the 2 wars you ask? having cigars with GW laughing at all of our children being killed as a result of that decision.

    March 1, 2010 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  7. Sensible

    Remove him. He's not helping a soul in his "position." What a creep. Doesn't want people to have jobs because it inflates the imaginary debt number. This is the real world, and people need jobs. Now.


    March 1, 2010 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  8. cspurgeon

    Well gee..I can understand a middle finger aimed tyoward the press.This guy is weird bud media is bad, bad, bad...

    March 1, 2010 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  9. Mark Landman

    Real classy there senator. This guy bears an uncanny resemblance to the south end of a northbound horse.

    March 1, 2010 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  10. Dan in Las Vegas

    Sounds like Senator Bunning is having flashbacks to 1964 when his Philles team blew the pennant! He seems to be quacking louder than the AFLAC duck. Meanwhile, Americans will go hungry due to his stupidity.

    March 1, 2010 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  11. dollar79

    i cant beleive this is a story, i would think that reporters get the finger all the time. they sure deserve it, as they are pushy people, so you can only expect when they get people upset that the reporters get flicked off. i applaud bunning, i think more of this should be happening. as you could tell by the story, it seemed like this reporter kept egging him on even when he wasnt answering questions, and i'm sure he was asking stupid questions that he knew wouldnt get answered, so its like he was asking for some kind of rise out of the senator so he could make a story out of something.

    March 1, 2010 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  12. Dano

    Do all GOP congressmen look like Dick Cheney or just this guy?

    March 1, 2010 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  13. benintn

    "...which Democrats have said are unpaid for." Um, Dana? Crew? The ARE unpaid for. The Bush tax cuts gave $1.8 trillion – mostly to the wealthiest Americans – and clearly have not created jobs. Look at where we are in 2010, and it's clear that any economic stimulus from the tax cuts were temporary and ultimately counterproductive.

    March 1, 2010 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  14. Wendy

    The gentleman (term used loosely) in this article represents all that is backwards in DC. How typical of a rad conservative to block a bill that would help those among us who are struggling. SHAME ON YOU, Jim Bunning.

    March 1, 2010 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  15. hatton in Nashville

    He'd better watch out or he'll be asked to lead the GOP! I know Rush and Glen Beck and Palin are hard acts to follow, but this kind of "angry old white man" stuff creates legends in the Republican Party these days.

    March 1, 2010 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  16. Annie, Atlanta

    I don't understand why the good people of KY are putting up with this nonsense. Impeach him, or recall him, or whatever it is you do with a Senator who has obviously lost it. Actually I'm not sure this guy ever had it to begin with. We need to stop towing the party line and pay attention to who we give these jobs to.

    March 1, 2010 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  17. Grog in Ohio

    Wow... stay classy GOP!!

    March 1, 2010 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  18. cspurgeon

    Good for Reid. The republicans need to straighten this guy out. Throw him out with Rangel...

    March 1, 2010 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  19. Jo Jo

    What a nasty little man. He shall reap what he sows. His day shall come.

    March 1, 2010 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  20. David

    Wow. Stay classy Republicans. You're going to get savaged (again) in November, probably just because of one man! Congrats.

    March 1, 2010 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  21. Melissa

    OMG. What a child. Thats the way to get things done Republicans... act like a brat.

    March 1, 2010 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  22. sharon

    Yep....................that sen time is up.................

    maybe he can follow his own finger out................the door................
    and never.....................never...............never .........come back.

    15th/ term.............? yep................long enough.

    see........he is retireing...............going home.........not concerned........
    Translation=he has enough $$$$$$$$$$$$$ to keep him worries.........he does not have to care about unemployment benifits, know the wealthy, "elite".........

    hope he does not experience any "medical problems of any degree".............that $$$$$$$$$$$$ could all go down the Medical Drain.....................................oh well...........................

    March 1, 2010 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  23. Dean

    In addition to giving that jounalist the middle finger, Senator Bunning gave it to the American people. I suppose he's going nuclear because he is retiring. His actions are typical for members of the GOP.

    So much for compassionate conservatism.

    March 1, 2010 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  24. Mickey

    Ahhh Republicans...always the class act...

    Ladies and Gentlemen, meet the newest domestic terrorist organization: THE GOP!

    March 1, 2010 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  25. cook

    Right. And I'm sure I can find this next to the CNN photo of Zero picking his nose on live TV, right?

    What? CNN won't show that photo? I guess CNN only likes to show Republicans in a "bad" light.

    March 1, 2010 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
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