January 29th, 2014
01:18 AM ET
10 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. with a grain of salt

    Dope, the first thing he said was " let me make myself clear", were you confused by that?

    January 29, 2014 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  2. Tony

    He is apologizing because he got caught, RESIGN!

    January 29, 2014 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  3. skarphace

    Inevitable Truth: "Grimm's anger was justified!"

    Correct. His threat of violence, however, was not. That is the issue. Anger is not a crime. Threat of violence is.

    January 29, 2014 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  4. kjfuller7

    I'm sorry... the apology just doesn't cover it. He had the forethought to know the camera was rolling and attempted to whisper his threats, otherwise he would've shoved his finger in the reporter's face and yelled his threats. Grimm is only sorry he got caught. I hope someone adds this incident to the fraud investigation to pressure this loose cannon to resign. Bully much, Mr. Grimm? K!

    January 29, 2014 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  5. Rudy NYC

    Silverado wrote:

    This is conduct unbecoming a marine. It is clear that Mr. Grimm is no marine. He only likes to think he is.
    --------------------------------
    Let's all be thankful that he didn't pursue a career in law enforcement.
    This is the type of personality who'd wind up shooting an unarmed civilian.

    January 29, 2014 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  6. Jay J

    This guy's political career is over, if not it should be.......someone holding a political office of that position should be upholding an example others should follow instead Grimm chose to be a bully because he didn't like the question being answered? No excuses and no sympathy here.

    January 29, 2014 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  7. Vence

    The real question is what would that happen if this is not recorded.

    January 29, 2014 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  8. MXL

    What a thug.

    January 29, 2014 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  9. kevin

    Grimm should face charges. He is obviously out of controll and should not be in the position of power he holds. Try saying that in Florida and he could have been shot and killed legally.

    January 29, 2014 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  10. skarphace

    Grimm was sending Scotto a message: back off. When do you tell somebody to back off a pending investigation? When you have something to hide. I will not be surprised at all if Grimm is found guilty of the crimes he is accused of. The only question is: will he serve time or will he go postal and kill other people before ending his own life?

    January 29, 2014 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  11. Thomas

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

    ========

    Hitler had his brown shirts deal with the press.

    January 29, 2014 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  12. skarphace

    Grimm was sending Scotto a message: back off. When do you tell somebody to back off a pending investigation? When you have something to hide. I will not be surprised at all if Grimm is found guilty of the crimes he is accused of. The only question is: will he serve time or will he go off and kill other people before ending his own life?

    January 29, 2014 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  13. Rudy NYC

    Dope..... wrote:

    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.....
    -----------------------------
    Apology? He played the victim card, and blamed the reporter for being unprofessional and disrespectful. That's an apology? Oh, yeah, that's right. He's a Republican. They never apologize for anything they do.

    January 29, 2014 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  14. Jackson

    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.

    _____________

    Won't quit? It was ONE question...he was not pestered, he was asked ONE question...since when is asking one question "just won't quit"?

    January 29, 2014 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  15. john

    If u cant stand the heat congressman, get out the kitchen!!!! That was Stupid

    January 29, 2014 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  16. Jacques Hughes

    I'd like to think his political career is over–that's the way it should be–but Pete Stark (Democrat, representing the East Bay in CA) pulled this kind of BS repeatedly without fail.

    Then again, it was never reported here on CNN. Because that D after the name gets one a pass.

    January 29, 2014 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  17. conoclast

    In the snowstorm of republican responses to Obama's stirring SOTU speech one stands out as truly representative of the republican mindset: Rep. Grimm's. He'd barely left the chamber before threatening the life of a journalist in an uncontrolled fit of rage. Now THAT'S republicanism!

    January 29, 2014 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  18. Phattee

    Apologizing for anything is seen as a sign of weakness on the far right.

    January 29, 2014 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  19. Mark

    He does not uphold virtues of a marine or FBI agent. He does not have the temperament to be a politician.

    January 29, 2014 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  20. 2L

    Too little too late – you should know better

    January 29, 2014 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  21. skarphace

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

    Bow down? No. Just walk away and refuse to answer the question? Yes. That is all that Grimm needed to do. The threat of violence was unnecessary, uncalled for, and a crime. You can bet that Grimm has something to hide. Innocent people do not respond with threats of violence when questioned.

    January 29, 2014 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  22. Anonymous

    It is about time Republicans start treating these reporters like the bought and paid for Democrat stooges they are. Give the Rep. a medal!

    January 29, 2014 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  23. Thomas

    FBI Arrests GOP Rep's Ex-Girlfriend On Straw Donation Charges.

    Grimm should have resigned a year ago , he's so dirty I'm surprised he isn't on bail.

    January 29, 2014 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  24. Thomas

    @Mark
    He does not uphold virtues of a marine or FBI agent. He does not have the temperament to be a politician.

    =====

    Thank you !

    January 29, 2014 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  25. Sarah Cooper

    "because I expect a certain level of professionalism and respect," well little Man, you can EXPECT all you want. When you earn respect, thats when you get it

    January 29, 2014 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18