January 29th, 2014
01:18 AM ET
9 years 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."

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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. anonymous

    Oh give me a break. This was a cheap shot by that slimey reporter against Grimm. Grimm should have handled it better but this slime ball reporter certainly had an agenda and knew he was taking a cheap shot at Grimm. He looks like a slimey lefty from the picture.

    January 29, 2014 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  2. Billy

    Mr. Grimm this are seriously Grim Comments and Such ROWDY behavior? Are you a Gangsta? Throw you Off Balcony? Throw Mr. Grimm into Prison... Better yet, Deport him to Afghanistan or Somalia !!

    January 29, 2014 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  3. sly

    At this rate the Democrats will have the majority in Congress BEFORE the mid-terms.

    January 29, 2014 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  4. NewNEReview

    I am the last person to take someone to task for accidental statements, the occasional over-reaction, and the like. Michael Grimm, R-New York exceeded the allowable limits with a direct, personal, and overtly threatening attempt at intimidation. Congressman should fear making belligerent threats. It is obvious that our lawmakers are above the law, and beyond reproach when they abuse the privileges of their offices. When will they ever be held accountable? I say, "Right now!" Congressman Grimm should be censored or reprimanded publicly for his actions. This event should serve as a deterrent for other elected officials!

    January 29, 2014 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  5. Vince

    It's nice he apologized. Now, how about an answer to the question?

    January 29, 2014 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  6. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    17 pages of comments...
    Am I the only one that thinks that this is being blown way out of proportion?
    Not even the reporter to whom his comment was addressed is tripping like some of you are over this Rep's behaviour.
    Maybe it's just me.

    January 29, 2014 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  7. with a grain of salt

    I would expect to be arrested for such an incident, but he's a republican, so not only is there no charges, he is infact the victim here.

    January 29, 2014 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    " he paid 14% of his income which I would guess would amount to a far greater amount than either you or I paid combined."

    Yes, someone please cue up "In the Arms of an Angel" so we can all have a good cry in sympathy for Mittens suffering at having to pay a grossly lesser tax percentage than families that are struggling to make ends meet because that percentage was still "more money than we'll see in our lifetimes" just like the 85%+/- of that fortune he was left with. Poor little guy. The 1%'s victimhood is neverending. Clearly, they are the most oppressed and persecuted group of people evah and our oppression of them must stop. For just 35% of your earnings per year, you too can help an insanely rich buffoon pay only 15% of their earnings in taxes. Won't you donate today?

    January 29, 2014 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  9. with a grain of salt

    Anon, an intelligent and mature response, as expected.

    January 29, 2014 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  10. with a grain of salt

    And of course he will amend his return, every available loophole maximized, isn't he in a unreasonable 39% tax bracket? People who idolize this man are complete idiots, a little Google can go a long way fools .

    January 29, 2014 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
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