January 29th, 2014
01:18 AM ET
7 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. duke

    obviously he waent the Chris Christy School of Charm, Grace and Tact

    January 29, 2014 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  2. Bear Brown

    Jackson responded to, in part:
    "Secondly, asking a perfectly fair question about an ongoing ethics investigation is inappropriate? Really? Name me one journalism school that teaches that. Just one."

    My response to the quote? The Faux Nooze Skool of Jernalism

    January 29, 2014 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  3. Steel On Target

    I don't know who this Congressman is but that's awesome!! Anyone who has ever dealt with the media has always wanted to say something like that. There's always at least one that won't quit.

    January 29, 2014 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  4. Silverado

    This is conduct unbecoming a marine. It is clear that Mr. Grimm is no marine. He only likes to think he is.

    January 29, 2014 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  5. mike electrician

    i.e., this guy smelled his re-election and the ads that this even will create.

    January 29, 2014 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  6. Klaus

    is that another attempt to try to make the media appear to be less evil than the politicians?
    haha... they are equal ,there is nothing honorable about the reporter, hes just a little spineless weasel like the other , same as the congressman

    January 29, 2014 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  7. Tourist

    Well, it seems the Congressman has not heard of the Citizen's United decision by John Robert's Supreme Court, otherwise he would have told his followers to form a "not-for-profit" corporation and then there would be no limit on what they can give to his campaign. The irony here is that SCOTUS essentially said in that decision that corporations are people too and have Constitutional rights of free speech (which translates into unlimited money), yet it is actual people (flesh and blood, duh!) that cannot spend unlimited money on campaigns, only the corporations can. Which would make you think the Constitution was written for them. If it wasn't, John Roberts & his court certainly turned that around. The Congressman needs to step up his game.

    January 29, 2014 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  8. svann

    "I'll break you in half, like a boy,"

    I hope that guy doesnt have any kids.

    January 29, 2014 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  9. FrankinSD

    So who is the real Representative Grimm? Is it the apologetic gentleman here, or the bully who at first defended his threats against a reporter who has the nerve to ask him a question he doesn't want to answer?

    January 29, 2014 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  10. Tourist

    what they can give to his campaign. The irony here is that SCOTUS essentially said in that decision that corporations are people too and have Constitutional rights of free speech (which translates into unlimited money), yet it is actual people (flesh and blood, duh!) that cannot spend unlimited money on campaigns, only the corporations can. Which would make you think the Constitution was written for them. If it wasn't, John Roberts & his court certainly turned that around. The Congressman needs to step up his game.

    January 29, 2014 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  11. dike

    Well how many boys has he broken? need to investigate that too...

    January 29, 2014 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  12. dc

    Translation: I am sorry that I got caught. My Italian mother taught me never to threaten anyone on camera. Next week, we are going to go out for lunch while taking out a boat that I am considering buying. I don't expect to have any more problems out of this reporter after that.

    January 29, 2014 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  13. Vence

    Another Bully!

    January 29, 2014 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  14. OrmondGeorge

    Grimm will reap what he has sewn. SOON, he'll have to resign in disgrace.
    The ONLY reason to behave like that is because you have something to hide. If he were innocent of the charge, he would relish the opportunity to say so at every turn.

    Steel On Target:
    I;m sure that there are times when reporters go too far – this was not one of them, and in spite of your ignorant bravado, there is ABSOLUTELY NO TIME when it is appropriate for a public figure, a REPRESENTATIVE OF THE PEOPLE to threaten another man's life.

    January 29, 2014 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  15. A True Conservative

    Is there something in the water in New York? I'm begining to think that NY Pols don't belong in the Unisted States....to follow Cuomo's line of thinking......

    @Bear Brown – Faux Nooze – Really? Ever watched Fox or are you the one remaining viewer at MSNBC?

    January 29, 2014 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  16. Dopeoplereally Writethisstuff

    To all who are claiming this "dumb comment" was an actual threat you are seriously pathetic.

    " threat of murder ", "physical threat", "threatens to kill"..... seriously???

    I would be willing to bet EACH and EVERYONE of you, when you got po'd at someone at some point in your life made a similar comment..... So line up to be prosecuted.....

    It was stupid, yes and he needed to apologize and did. The reporter himself even said he didnt actually take it "seriously" that it was anger.

    Ah... but wait.....I see he is Repub. and all the self rightous, angelic liberals will make this the biggest story in the world. And people wonder why there is no real bi-partisanship.....

    January 29, 2014 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  17. I don't get it

    Someone got a call from Boehner.. someone felt a little threatened by the tanned Speaker of the House....

    January 29, 2014 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  18. Tim

    I'm a Veteran also. We know the majority of miltary members don't like liberal democrat's like Obama. I for one would of loved to see this little liberal troll thrown over the balcony..

    January 29, 2014 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  19. Demigod Vadik, CA

    This is something Putin does to Russian media, if anyone ever dared ask him a tough question....

    January 29, 2014 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  20. skarphace

    Coffeeman: "As for everyone here saying he's a thug because he's Republican should take a harder look at their boy Obutthead. That guy wants to bypass congress to get things done. Sounds more like a dictator than a president."

    First, if the President threatened anybody like this thug did, then there would be impeachment hearings, you can guarantee it.

    Second, it is called an "executive order" and I dare you to name one President that did not use such action. Issuing executive orders is part of the job of POTUS.

    January 29, 2014 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  21. Vi Man

    How's about throwing this bully out of his office next election. He is not apologic. He did it because he got caught.

    January 29, 2014 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  22. skarphace

    Dave: "Nothing wrong with a Republican threatening a soft weak Liberal."

    The idea that "might makes right" is indeed part and parcel of the Republican agenda. It is why they support policies that favor the rich. Born wealthy? You get a break. Born poor? Get a friggin job you slob!

    January 29, 2014 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  23. sly

    This fella comes off as a real wuss.

    Hillary could take him out 1 on 1 in about a minute. These rich white Republicans don't know how to fight – he'd pee in his pants.

    January 29, 2014 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  24. Moderate Sean

    Steel On Target

    I don't know who this Congressman is but that's awesome!! Anyone who has ever dealt with the media has always wanted to say something like that. There's always at least one that won't quit.
    **************************************************************************************************************

    Steel on Target, you obviously did not watch the entirety of the interview! Most of the interview dealt with the State of the Union (SOTU) and the Congressman's reaction to it. The reporter started to ask one final question, which he didn't even finish asking, before he was interrupted by the Congressman, stating he wouldn't answer any question unrelated to the SOTU. The Congressman then walked away, and as the reporter closed out the interview stating that Grimm wasn't going to speak to this issue, Grimm walked back into the camera view stating all his threats. If you want to play in the big league, one has to deal with the big league issues! Obviously, Grimm couldn't!!

    January 29, 2014 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  25. skarphace

    Mike: "I probably would have done the same thing to this classless reporter!"

    The difference? As a private citizen and not a pampered elected official, you would be in jail right now if you did. Threatening somebody with physical violence is a crime. Well, for most people.

    January 29, 2014 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
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