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. garymac

    He deserves respect?..not

    January 29, 2014 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  2. Rudy NYC

    Republicans have a habit of complaining that Pres. Obama won't sit down to negotiate with them. If this Grimm is typical of what compromises House Republicans and its' raucus caucus [a.k.a. The Tea Party], then I don't blame him for not being caught in the same room with them. After reading his response, I've concluded that this Grimm is an existential threat to any who disagrees with him.

    January 29, 2014 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  3. MariaErics

    I wonder if this congressman realizes that 1) his response is NOT professional or respectful and two wrongs don't make a right and 2) his defensiveness speaks volumes about his guilt over the Justice Dept. investigation....

    January 29, 2014 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  4. rs


    @rs-I read the article from the post last night andtheir was no mention that raising the bac mac price by 5 cents would cover the min. wage increase. Also, the study concluded a result of “mixed evidence that higher minimum wages result in higher fast food prices.” Care to change your fairytale?
    Nope- if I run ito it I'll post it. Meanwhile as it is youwho is promoting an economic issue with no basis in fact- why not link a study we can look at. The Minimum Wage has been raise 25 times- with no negative effect (quite the opposite actually). I'll look for evidence of your "fairytale".

    January 29, 2014 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  5. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    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 a New Yorker I'm going to have to smile about this one...lol.

    January 29, 2014 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  6. Wake up People!

    I actually saw the video this morning on our local news and it was disturbing to say the least. These are the people we elect to represent us in Congress. This is not acceptable behavior, no matter which party you belong to. Being in the public eye, you are under scrutiny. And anyone that thinks a reporter should only ask soft questions is delusional. The man is in the middle of a scandal, any reporter would ask about it. All he had to say was, no comment. He didn't need to act like a thug.

    January 29, 2014 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  7. Marcus (from...?)

    To Keith who talked about the good ole days when reporters were interested in 'just the facts':
    – Fact, the reporter was not bound by a deal (written or not) to ask ONLY the questions that the politician wanted him to.
    – Fact, the politician wasn't coerced to act as he did (in front of a camera that was still transmitting!).
    – Fact, the reporter says that he's not going to press charges BECAUSE the images are out there to anyone see them and make his/her own mind.
    Those are the facts, any (R) or (D) you want to attach to them its on your own.

    January 29, 2014 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  8. max128

    Actually, if Grimm expects only soft-ball questions and can't handle tough ones without exploding, he's the sissy. Can't talk intelligently? Compensate by beating someone up.

    January 29, 2014 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  9. The REAL Truth...

    @Rudy NYC – Scotto indicated that he will not personally file any charges, saying that he preferred to let the video speak for itself.
    I know.. I was saying that I would file. These people seem to think that they are above the law and everyone else. They are supposed to be serving our country.. and yet there's plenty of folks on here (not you) defending Grimm's behavior??

    January 29, 2014 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  10. Scuromondo

    Successful reporters are always annoying. They need drama, conflict is always dramatic, and afflicting the comfortable is always a way to spark conflict. Grimm was just clearly taken totally offguard, and responded dramatically and stupidly.

    January 29, 2014 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  11. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Rudy NYC'
    I listened to Scotto this morning while navigating icy roads and fresh snow. Scotto indicated that he will not personally file any charges, saying that he preferred to let the video speak for itself.
    It all goes to perceived intent by the "threatened" party Rudy, doesn't it?
    Scotto is a NYC reporter.
    He did not take the threat literally to his benefit.
    He understood the difference betweeen a real threat and somebody just "going off" (unlike some on this thread).
    What Grimm was rally saying is "That's the last god–mn time you'll get an interview from me!", or something to that effect.
    Relax people, he's no Christie.

    January 29, 2014 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  12. columbus

    These guys think they are above us mere peasants, they despise us and it is apparent in their demeanor and legislative loyalty to their peers.

    January 29, 2014 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  13. skarphace

    I think the Congressman has been watching too much "Boardwalk Empire". Actions like this make him seem like he is feeling guilty about something.

    January 29, 2014 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  14. The Real Tom Paine

    @rs: don't bother trying to debate Smitty. He's convinced that millionaires are a persecuted class because they have to pay their employees a few more dollars an hour.

    January 29, 2014 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  15. don in albuquerque

    Classy, very classy. Whole country should be proud of this GOTP Thug.

    January 29, 2014 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  16. TdigyT

    I would have loved to be in that reporter's shoes...

    January 29, 2014 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  17. Phoggy

    It's popular to blame the idiot politician for his own stupidity, but as an elected official I put this on the constituents for voting such a prick into office. Tyrants are given power. They are enabled.

    January 29, 2014 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  18. Thaddeus

    You know, one of the main reasons the GOP has lost credibility is because every time they throw mud at the President, we find out they have overly exaggerated the issue or just plain made it up. It has happened time after time since Obama has been elected and they keep doing it over and over again. And then they cry media bias and foul when THEY get caught speeding and pretend they have not done anything wrong. So we can assume they don't have the intelligence to lead this country because of their inability to tell the truth.

    January 29, 2014 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  19. BOOM

    There used to be a code among reporters that certain discussions would be delayed if it was a condition of making an appearance. There's no reason for that kind of reaction by the Congressman, but at the same time, the reporter could have avoided the confrontation by sticking to what was agreed to.

    January 29, 2014 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  20. Pete

    I would loose my job if I threatened someone like that...

    Does his job title entitle him to a different Freedom of Speech that I have been granted?

    January 29, 2014 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  21. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    @ The REAL Truth
    Good morning Truth.
    I just want to be clear that while I am not defending Grimm's behaviour I am also not making a big deal out of it. The man was pissed off and he vented.
    How many people have NOT said " I could've killed him/her"? It is not something that is meant literally.
    That's the way I took that outburst.
    Having said that, you are absolutely correct in the standards of behaviour that our representatives should be held to.
    I responded to his outburst as if he were a private citizen which he isn't. My bad Truth.

    January 29, 2014 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  22. Mr. Moderate

    "Yeah, and you would not put this story out there if he was not a republician. Whats more unacceptable, saying someone deserves to have someone deficate in their mouth, or telling someone you are going to throw them from a balcony?"

    Ummmm....Keith? Martin Bashir was fired for that statement. If there is any double standard, its on the right. Martin Bashir, Alec Baldwin, Bill Mahar, the Dixie Chicks are liberals that lost their jobs or suffered negative repercussions for things they said about conservatives. Can you name me four people on the right who suffered the same fate?

    January 29, 2014 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  23. Lewis

    Politicians need to understand that reporters are only doing their job. When they ask questions it is up to the politician wheat her or. Not their answers will help or hurt them. Those reporters are there to give those politicians a face to the american people, if that face is "I'm gonna throw you off this --- balcony" then the american people will see a bully and a violent man. And it's really sad too because this guy is a former marine and most likely cares deeply about his country. But if this is how he presents himself then he is going to pay for it.

    January 29, 2014 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  24. much thunder...little rain

    the reporter needs to ck his pants i think he did no 1 and 2 in them...lol

    January 29, 2014 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  25. Enigmatic1

    Why haven't the police intervened yet? Rep. Grimm should go to jail for menacing and assault. Bare minimum, he should be removed from office. No one in congress should ever act like that. What a coward.

    January 29, 2014 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
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