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. Coffeeman

    The congressman was unprofessional, but the reporter asked for it by ambushing him. 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. The president is not man enough to lead and find compromise, so he acts like a "thug" and will try to bypass congress. The man may know the Constitution, but he sure isn't worried about obeying it.

    January 29, 2014 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  2. Teapot dome to Teabags

    I would think making a threat of physical violence inside a federal building is a federal crime, and also a violation of congressional ethics rules.

    Let's see if the government can correctly do it's job here.
    Or see if these rules don't apply to wealthy govt officials.

    January 29, 2014 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  3. Dan

    Why wasn't he arrested for threatening to kill the reporter? This guy just ended his career at least.

    January 29, 2014 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  4. The 99%

    I am offended as a voting citizen that this politician thinks he is 'doing the reporter a favor' by answering his questions about the state of the union. Congress members are public servants, and this incident only highlights the 'greater than thou' attitude of so many of them. It is embarrassing to have such egomaniacs serving in congress, but I suppose we are the ones that put them there.

    January 29, 2014 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  5. 1984

    Sounds to me like he was making a terrorist threat and should be arrested. If any of us did that we would be The guy is a bully. the question was valid he could have ignored it and not respond at all. Instead he had to verbally threaten the person. The guy has no class and should not be representing people in our Government.

    January 29, 2014 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  6. Dave

    Nothing wrong with a Republican threatening a soft weak Liberal. I'll bet he was scared too

    January 29, 2014 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  7. David Duvall

    Rep. Michael Grimm, R-New York, needs to be arrested and put in jail for assault when he threatened to injure and/or kill the reporter by throwing him off of the balcony when he had the present apparent ability to do so. He is a criminal and belongs in jail where he can be repeatedly bent-over and taught manners – daily!

    January 29, 2014 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  8. mike electrician

    GOP thug!, glad he just ruined his re-election chances. How dare a reporter ask about an investigation about this congressman's corruption. I guess the reporter thinks we live in a country where those in government work for us, and we deserve answers.

    January 29, 2014 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  9. UHG

    It seems our politicians are not capable of answering questions from reporters any more with all the corruption in their lives.

    I guess reporters can only ask them questions that are approved and scripted. If politicians do not like being asked real relevant questions then they should stick to talk shows like opera were everything can be soft balled for them .

    January 29, 2014 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  10. Jackson

    Hmmm, threatening to throw the reporter off the balcony. Is that a new "family value"? I'm not on the mailing list, so I have no idea.

    January 29, 2014 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  11. bosfaninva

    Just a thug in the guise of a congressman. You stay classy, Staten Island!

    January 29, 2014 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  12. Grimm Cruze Control

    It's ok to threaten somebody with death if you're annoyed in NY. Stand Your Ground.

    January 29, 2014 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  13. Chuck

    I think these people seem to forget that they are public servants.

    January 29, 2014 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  14. Brickell Princess

    Sure looks like Rep. Michael Grimm, R-New York, got a hold of some bad crack! He should be in jail right now! Had anyone else done what he did, they would have been in jail!

    January 29, 2014 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  15. David

    A republican saying something completely stupid and borderline insane?! Surprise, surprise.

    January 29, 2014 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  16. Jackson


    Nothing wrong with a Republican threatening a soft weak Liberal. I'll bet he was scared too


    Thank you! It's about time a conservative openly admitted to the double standard. Dave just confirmed it on behalf of all conservatives!

    January 29, 2014 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  17. PushingBack

    This guy needs to be shown the unemployment line by the good people of NY.

    January 29, 2014 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  18. Rudy NYC


    I think the Congressman has been watching too much "Boardwalk Empire". Actions like this make him seem like he is feeling guilty about something.
    Grimm has been caught up in an ongoing campaign finance scandal surrounding his "girlfriend" for well over a year, as it's been reported by Scotto. Two weeks ago, new damaging evidence came to light. Grimm has been playing cat and mouse with reporters asking hard questions for the past two weeks. NY1 is the local cable news channel that serves his district. If Mr. Grimm does not wish to answer to his own constituents concerning the criminal allegations, then that is his right. He has no right to become menacing and threaten to throw someone off of a four story balcony.

    January 29, 2014 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  19. irunner

    His reaction certainly suggests guilt.

    January 29, 2014 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  20. Scott

    He's from New York. I'd consider that polite...

    January 29, 2014 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  21. markus

    I don't know what's worse- the very palpable threat of physical violence this congressman made, or his appalling statement afterward. The guy should be removed from office. If we allow elected officials to behave this way it's only a matter of time before it deteriorates into even worse behavior. This guy is an embarrassment to his constiuents.

    January 29, 2014 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  22. GOP Hates the USA

    Now istead of being asked about his contribution scandal, he'll be asked about that Anger Management issue he has ..

    January 29, 2014 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  23. KevinS

    Typical tough guy bully and then thinking he is justified because he was asked a question..........by a reporter. People that support this type of behavior are really just part of the problem. This isn't D vs R, it an elected individual showing who they really are.

    January 29, 2014 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  24. Jackson


    Where is the attack?


    Attacks can be verbal. They aren't always physical. But, since FOX News never explained that to you, you wouldn't be expected to know that.

    January 29, 2014 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  25. markus


    Nothing wrong with a Republican threatening a soft weak Liberal. I'll bet he was scared too"

    THIS is supposed to be the party of family values???

    January 29, 2014 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
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