January 29th, 2014
01:18 AM ET
8 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. typical

    if the reporter threatened him he would be arrested....

    January 29, 2014 01:36 am at 1:36 am |
  2. Jeff6187

    Time to resign or be forced out! Making such a threat is a criminal act. Bye.

    January 29, 2014 01:44 am at 1:44 am |
  3. Lean6

    Couldn't resist the free on-air time. He took the risk talking to that reporter...he wasn't trying to do anybody any favors except himself.

    January 29, 2014 01:44 am at 1:44 am |
  4. James Tarkin

    He should have gone ahead and tossed him over. Reporters with no journalistic tact are racing politicians and corrupt bankers to the top of the 'most despised' list.

    January 29, 2014 01:56 am at 1:56 am |
  5. Steve

    Yep, the reporter baited Grimm and showed mock surprise when Grimm came after him. In other words the Marxist progressives can bait someone as part of their usual tactics, but when some one calls them on it, they play the intolerant card. Thomas Jefferson said " The tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood patriots and tyrants." Obama and his lackeys lie or agree with you when it serves their purposes. They have upped the Debt by 7 trillion $ in just 5 years to buy votes for the next election. Don't you wish you could print money to pay your bills every month? Get out and vote these goons out next time. We can do it! Those who turn their swords in for plowshares will plow for those that didn't.

    January 29, 2014 01:59 am at 1:59 am |
  6. BB

    You are a public servant, hired by the public to represent them. There are allegations of illegal activity from you. A reporter asked you about it and you directed obscenities toward him and threatened him with physical violence.

    This is what happened. Everything else is spin.

    January 29, 2014 02:03 am at 2:03 am |
  7. Thomas

    This guy Rep. Michael Grimm, R-New York is a gangster not a politician,

    His ilegal campaign contributions from Israeli lobbyist threatens our national security .

    January 29, 2014 02:05 am at 2:05 am |
  8. The Real Truth

    Wow, this is just another privileged "former FBI agent" going rogue because his illegal activity has been discovered. Would the reporter face prosecution for threatening to throw someone of the f****** balcony or breaking them in half like a boy? Mr. Grimm should face public and legal prosecution for terroristic threatening this reporter just doing his job, and be immediately removed from office. Staten Island and Brooklyn are made up of a diverse group of people that expect more from their representative! Hopefully, Michael Grimm will ultimately be prosecuted and convicted of his illegal activity regarding his illegal campaign activity. Also, the irony is rather astounding that Grimm expects to receive "professionalism" while not extending it himself.

    January 29, 2014 02:26 am at 2:26 am |
  9. Rich

    More wackiness from Republicans.

    January 29, 2014 02:35 am at 2:35 am |
  10. AB

    If he actually threw him off the balcony, it would be news. Most of these sleezy reporters should be thrown off the balcony.

    January 29, 2014 02:39 am at 2:39 am |
  11. smirking

    There's a word for this kind of thing: Thug.

    January 29, 2014 02:40 am at 2:40 am |
  12. james

    Perfect example of what is wrong with a majority of the leaders in our country. Stay classy, Mr. Grimm...

    January 29, 2014 02:42 am at 2:42 am |
  13. R Betkey

    Gasp! A Republican bullying people for challenging their policies?? Not possible!

    January 29, 2014 02:44 am at 2:44 am |
  14. alexturner61

    eh. Look on the bright side, a politician told the truth. Here's one politician who truthfully said what he really felt and meant.

    January 29, 2014 02:44 am at 2:44 am |
  15. Adam

    Classy. I would hope the House leadership gets informed about this. This is certainly not conduct becoming of a member of Congress.

    January 29, 2014 02:45 am at 2:45 am |
  16. rosethornne

    Not adequate to be serving in Congress.

    January 29, 2014 02:58 am at 2:58 am |
  17. Richard

    This Congress Man thinks he's a tough guy, I'll tell you what, he needs to be thrown in jail for threats of violence and smacked around by his jail mates, maybe then he will gain some perspective.

    What a primitive man.

    January 29, 2014 02:59 am at 2:59 am |
  18. Greg

    Wow, he freaked out when asked about allegations of illegal fund raising? Sounds like they're true then. 🙂

    Hey politician – what do you expect? You can be questioned about anything, especially alleged wrongdoing, at any time. That's part of your job, and if you can't deal with it, don't run for an elected position.

    January 29, 2014 03:05 am at 3:05 am |
  19. Felcan

    Grimm needs to apologize to nobody! Reporters like this sniveling little wimp need to be taught a lesson to show some respect to a congressman.

    January 29, 2014 03:12 am at 3:12 am |
  20. jeff

    Test him for steroids. I bet you cash money he's juicing.

    January 29, 2014 03:12 am at 3:12 am |
  21. Pissed Off

    You should be arrested for threatening his life by telling him you would throw him off the balcony. Great example congressman...

    January 29, 2014 03:16 am at 3:16 am |
  22. Pissed Off

    You threatened to throw him off the balcony...thats not calling someone out...thats a threat and you should be held accountable. Period.

    January 29, 2014 03:18 am at 3:18 am |
  23. EO

    Grimm's outlook is very grim...

    January 29, 2014 03:24 am at 3:24 am |
  24. Bob

    "Attacks reporter on Live TV"? Give me a break, he was clearly out of line and committed the crime of uttering a death threat but he did not assault the reporter as the link on CNN to this article and the title of the video indicate. Shoddy, link baiting reporting. Even for CNN.

    January 29, 2014 03:24 am at 3:24 am |
  25. Oneula

    Sounds lke a bully who didn't like the way things were going. Threatening to throw someone off a balcony could be seen as a death threat depending on the height of the balcony.

    January 29, 2014 03:33 am at 3:33 am |
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