January 29th, 2014
01:18 AM ET
6 months ago

N.Y. congressman apologizes after threatening to throw reporter off balcony

updated 12:05 p.m. ET

Washington (CNN) – After first defending his actions, Rep. Michael Grimm, R-New York, apologized Wednesday for physically threatening a NY1 News reporter at the Capitol.

"I apologized. I called (the reporter) Michael Scotto up. He was very gracious in accepting my apology. We're going to have lunch sometime next week and make sure this is all behind us," Grimm told reporters in Washington.

"This was an unfortunate incident that shouldn't have happened. I'm sure my Italian mother is going to be yelling at me, saying 'you weren't raised that way' and she's right," he added

Scotto confirmed that he spoke with Grimm.

It all started when the congressman, who's under investigation by the Justice Department for illegal fundraising during his 2010 campaign, walked away from an on-camera interview Tuesday night after the State of the Union address. Grimm stormed off when Scotto tried to ask him a question at the end about the campaign finance allegations.

"Alright, so Congressman Michael Grimm does not want to talk about the allegations concerning his campaign finances," Scotto said. "We wanted to get him on camera on that, but he, as you saw, refused to talk about that. Back to you."

With the camera still rolling, Grimm surged toward the reporter, who appeared visibly surprised.

The second-term congressman, who's also a former Marine and former FBI agent, spoke aggressively to Scotto for about 20 seconds.

NY1, a CNN affiliate, broadcast the confrontation late Tuesday night, though it bleeped out the obscenities.

"Let me be clear to you: If you ever do that to me again, I'll throw you off this f***ing balcony," Grimm said, as they were standing on the third floor of the rotunda in the Cannon House building.

Scotto replied that he was just trying to ask "a valid question."

"No, no. You're not man enough, you're not man enough. I'll break you in half, like a boy," Grimm replied.

First elected in 2010, Grimm represents Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn. In a statement late Tuesday night to NY1, he defended his comments, saying he was "extremely annoyed" because he was "doing NY1 a favor by rushing to do their interview first in lieu of several other requests."

"The reporter knew that I was in a hurry and was only there to comment on the State of the Union, but insisted on taking a disrespectful and cheap shot at the end of the interview, because I did not have time to speak off-topic," he added.

"I verbally took the reporter to task and told him off, because I expect a certain level of professionalism and respect, especially when I go out of my way to do that reporter a favor."

Talking to reporters Wednesday morning after the apology, Grimm said he's "passionate" and tends to "wear my emotions on my sleeve."

The congressman said he had been working on flood insurance legislation all day Tuesday and was under "a lot of pressure to deliver because I want my constituents to know I do have their back."

Speaking with another group of reporters Wednesday, Grimm was asked whether he has talked to the FBI or the Justice Department about the investigation.

"No, not at all," he said.

Grimm is accused of taking campaign donations from overseas and encouraging donors to exceed contribution limits.

Two people close to Grimm have been charged in the case, but Grimm denies any involvement.

Earlier Wednesday morning, Scotto said he didn't expect much of a reaction from Grimm to his question the previous night.

"I was surprised about his reaction," Scotto said Wednesday morning on CNN's New Day. "I'm a New York City reporter. I'm used to pushback but I never encountered anything like that"

Asked by CNN anchor Chris Cuomo if he thought the threat was real, Scotto said "I don't believe the substance of the threat at all. I'm not taking it personal. I just think he was angry by the fact that I asked that question and I think he was even more angry by the fact that I kind of explained to viewers why he was not going to answer that question."

Scotto added that there were no preconditions when he spoke to the Grimm before the interview started.

NY1 Political Director Bob Hardt also released a statement, calling the congressman's behavior "unacceptable."

"It is extremely disturbing when anyone threatens one of our reporters – let alone a U.S. Congressman. The NY1 family is certainly alarmed and disappointed by the behavior of Representative Grimm and demands a full apology from him. This behavior is unacceptable," reads the statement.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which has long been targeting Grimm over the allegations, was quick to push out the confrontation in an e-mail blast to reporters Tuesday night.

Grimm has been known to get testy with reporters in the past, including on CNN's "The Situation Room" last fall.

CNN's Athena Jones, Deirdre Walsh, Kevin Liptak, Conor Finnegan and Greg Seaby contributed to this report.


Filed under: Michael Grimm
soundoff (435 Responses)
  1. VJ

    He should resign and face consequences... He threatens to kill a reporter... Wow!!! No sympathy for him. period.

    January 29, 2014 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  2. Jackson

    Mike

    I probably would have done the same thing to this classless reporter! Was he from CNN?

    ______________

    Doing your job and asking a question about an ethics investigation is classless?

    Gotta love the double standard GOP hypocrisy!

    January 29, 2014 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  3. Kenneth the VI of Minneapolis

    Mr. Grimm will threaten the wrong person one of the days.

    January 29, 2014 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  4. ItsAMirage

    Republicans are self imploding lol.
    Fully enjoying the show.

    January 29, 2014 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  5. Jackson

    MC-MSgt

    I can hardly blame him for going off on a reporter. They are like a swarm of gnats circling, biting, picking at everyone they think will make headlines and get them noticed. They may have the right to print what they think is truth and rub whatever political slant they and their network or paper lean towards, but nobody, not even elected officials, are obligated to talk to them. Particularly about allegations or pending legal matters.

    Have we really turned into a nation that feels that everyone should bow down to the press just for publicity sake?

    _____________________

    First off, this interview was AGREED to...so there was no swarming media....but hey, you need to spin this to make it the media's fault, because nothing is ever a conservative's fault, right?

    Secondly, asking a perfectly fair question about an ongoing ethics investigation is inappropriate? Really? Name me one journalism school that teaches that. Just one.

    January 29, 2014 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  6. S. Terry

    OUTRAGEOUS bullying...physical threat to a reporter?
    How interesting that Rep. Grimm said, "I verbally took the reporter to task and told him off, because I expect a certain level of professionalism and respect, especially when I go out of my way to do that reporter a favor."
    WHAT would this representative know about professionalism and respect? As for doing the reporter a "favor"...what in the world is Grimm talking about? HIS behavior is shameful.

    January 29, 2014 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  7. svann

    Is the threat of murder an impeachable offense?

    January 29, 2014 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  8. Rudy NYC

    somebody wrote:

    "Lol. I could have sworn you were saying exactly the same thing about dems good repubs bad with regards to Trey Radel. All the hardcore left kept saying were inane things like this (and then he resigned making you all look like children). For a smart man, I cannot believe that you think that dems are so altruistic. ... ..."
    ------------------------–
    Like that word, altruistic, huh? LOL..

    Sorry, dude. Trey Radel is about the worst example that you could have possibly used. Not only was the man arrested, but it appears that the Republican leadership in the Congress conspired to keep news of arrest out of the press until after the election. It was only a happy accident that the press even caught wind of his arrest. Boehner, McConnell, and the rest of the leadership were perfectly content to cover it up. So much so, that they had even advised him NOT TO RESIGN when calls for his resignation started up. Sorry, tom, but you failed.

    January 29, 2014 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  9. jack

    Grimm should resign, his actions as a representative are unacceptable. Just because he was a marine and an FBI agent doesn't give him the right to be a bully as a congressman. Typical NY Republican abusing his power. He is obviously guilty of illegal campaign financing.............

    January 29, 2014 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  10. Eric

    Pathetic that he would stoop this low. Another case of unneeded politicians. After watching House of Cards though this behavior isn't too surprising

    January 29, 2014 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  11. Sniffit

    "I could have sworn you were saying exactly the same thing about dems good repubs bad with regards to Trey Radel. All the hardcore left kept saying were inane things like this (and then he resigned making you all look like children)."

    Radel should resign. Nothing about Radel resigning makes anyone look like children. If accidentally publicly tweeting your extra-marital sexting pics is enough to force resignation, then surely getting caught, charged, pleading guilty and receiving probation for buying a Schedule 1 narcotic you admit to being addicted to should also justify resignation. The latter is clearly worse.

    January 29, 2014 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  12. Sniffit

    "I could have sworn you were saying exactly the same thing about dems good repubs bad"

    Not what I was saying and you're clearly just playing the game of deliberately misinterpreting my post to give yourself something easier to argue against. Radel should resign. Nothing about Radel resigning makes anyone look like children. If accidentally publicly tweeting your extra-marital sexting pics is enough to force resignation, then surely getting caught, charged, pleading guilty and receiving probation for buying a Schedule 1 narcotic you admit to being addicted to should also justify resignation. The latter is clearly worse.

    "Let's start with Vitter on the repub side and Rangel on the dem side."

    Yes, this "should be fun": Vitter – never censured. Rangel – received one of the most thorough public censures the House has ever delivered.

    "Repubs nor dems own transgressions or idiotic acts."

    Reread what I wrote. You miss the point entirely through your whole response and his shows it. Nobody is arguing that there aren't bad actors on both sides, least of all me. The point was how they get treated by the MSM and the rest of congress. You failed to address that in any manner whatsoever.

    Shall I go on or would you like to remain blinded on your high horse?"

    You like her? I call her "Iokiyar."

    January 29, 2014 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  13. Calcommuter

    It's fun when a politician gets caught with his hand in the cookie jar then doesnt want to talk about it. Usually they say jibberish or a non denial denial. This one threatened.

    January 29, 2014 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  14. chaing

    In my state, that verbal threat could get you arrested for assault. I know the guy's under a lot of stress (his party is falling apart and being disclosed for what it is), not enough sleep (because they are closing in on him) and, possibly not eating right (the lobbyist luncheons are too rich). He might want to take advantage of the 'Obama Care' mental health coverage! Looser.

    January 29, 2014 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  15. yogi

    @Bravo

    This congressman is a real man and he just moved up a few notches in my eye. We need some real men in D.C.
    --------------
    A "real man", and we need more of those in DC? That is precisely why the GOP will be a minority because their base is completely out of touch, lacking compassion, civility, and last but not least uneducated.
    Amazing to read the reactions of the righties here defending Grimm.

    January 29, 2014 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  16. Sunflower

    sounds like everything was pre-planned, first threaten then apologize, and apology accepted; win win for congressman and the reporter.

    January 29, 2014 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  17. Michael SC

    Grimm would have been a good member of the SS, Gestapo and SA.
    Most Politicians think that they are above the law.

    January 29, 2014 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  18. Sniffit

    "They can stay but they can't help choose who our elected officials are. That's a compromise, right?"

    No, that's taxation without representation. This country doesn't compromise on that.

    January 29, 2014 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  19. Sunflower

    sounds like everything was pre-planned or what!!! first threaten then apologize, and apology accepted; win win for congressman and the reporter. Cheap publicity stunt.

    January 29, 2014 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  20. Casan

    Mafia personality in New York...shocking!

    January 29, 2014 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  21. Blake

    He was trying telling us what a real politician is... shame on you!

    January 29, 2014 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  22. paulhsimon

    Congress is doing such an excellent job that this particular individual is absolutely correct to refuse to respond to a simple question by threatening violence. Sheesh!

    January 29, 2014 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  23. Sniffit

    "Doing your job and asking a question about an ethics investigation is classless?"

    Doing your job and asking a question about a GOPer's/Teatroll's ethics investigation is classless.

    FIFY. IOKIYAR. The MSM is so frightened of losing "access" to the GOPers/Teatrolls that they regularly have their noses planted on GOP/Teatroll interviewees' grundles.

    January 29, 2014 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  24. Tom

    He will be the next to be put down like a dog he is, bullying and thinking your are above the law and deserve respect won't get you nowhere with the people, he should be ashamed of himself. The only reason why he apologize is to keep his job and make himself look good

    January 29, 2014 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  25. WB

    Good to know we have level-headed representatives that can keep their cool if anything happens that they disagree with.

    I'm pretty sure threats like this are an arrestable offense.

    January 29, 2014 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
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