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. Courtenay Craig

    If the reporter doesn't state he didn't think the threat real, that's assault. For being a former Marine and FBI agent, Congressman Grimm is a witless pathetic bully. Let's see how the investigation turns out.

    January 29, 2014 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  2. Mike

    I probably would have done the same thing to this classless reporter! Was he from CNN?

    January 29, 2014 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  3. jrsgta

    so talking to THE PEOPLE and press is a FAVOR?. sorry mr CONGRESS men its what we pay you for.

    January 29, 2014 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  4. Matt

    This guy is dangerous, if he threatens and then backs up a plan to kill a reporter, what else is he capable of????

    January 29, 2014 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  5. fakesteveballmer

    Grimm comes across as chatty as a hair dresser.

    A real Marine wold have torn the reporter's arms off silence.

    January 29, 2014 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  6. 1984

    write you representative about this thug. no place for someone like that in Government. Ask a question then the guy walks away to come back and make threats. come on .. just plain wrong regardless..

    January 29, 2014 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  7. Diane Hyde Coffman

    CNN and a Republican ,so unusual. He answered the question. By the reporter pursuing further comment on the same question, one wonders if his intent was to incite an angry response.

    January 29, 2014 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  8. Inevitable Truth

    Grimm's anger was justified!

    The reporter never even got a chance to bring up his question, so it's not fair for him to bring up the issue after Grimm has left camera. Think about it - he could have said Grimm was dodging a question about literally anything. Insert embarrassing topic of choice. For example, "Yep, as you just saw, Grimm doesn't want to address those allegations of [child molestation]! Back to you, Steve!"

    It's not fair at all and is an abuse of power as a journalist. It's textbook passive-aggressive behavior, and it's disgusting to use such childish and immature tactics. Scotto is the real bully here. And this time he got confronted by his victim. He knows he was in the wrong: his petulant, feeble protests sounded downright pathetic as Grimm questioned his manhood, right to his face, not to a camera behind his back!

    Scotto should have a lot of hard thinking in the near future about the way he conducts himself, and kudos to Grimm for telling off this little punk.

    January 29, 2014 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  9. The Real Tom Paine


    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.
    Define compromise, then. If compromise means doing the biddling of the element of the GOP that claims they worship the Constitution, but do everything in their power to paralyze and cripple the country, then bypass them. The TP/GOP has never had any intention of compromising with the president, since they know that means an instant primary challenge from well-heeled " grassroots" organizations who are always looking for a more compliant puppet. Their idological purity tests are destroying the country, and, as usual, they blame everyone but themselves.

    January 29, 2014 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  10. Sam

    Gotta love all the liberal / progressive faux outrage – he was a mean Republican! Meanwhile Obama continues to divide this nation every way he can but the extreme left still claims he's "compromising".

    January 29, 2014 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  11. chucky1169469

    It's amazing the comments coming from conservatives about the "respect" that the reporter should have given to the congressman. Are you guys talking about the same respect you have given to the President?

    January 29, 2014 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  12. Jo Se

    Look at last night's NY congressman thug threatening to kill a reporter! Caught on film. That criminal should be arrested. Had the reporter done the same to that punk thug, there would have been an arrest, and likely a beating.

    Reporters represent US. When they are attacked, we are attacked. Sue and prosecute those attacks. They are now as common as police and government attacks on people. Proof that the government is the enemy of We The People.

    January 29, 2014 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  13. Rudy NYC

    The 99% wrote:

    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.
    That's not entirely accurate. Listen to it carefully. Grimm stated that he "wanted to talk about the President," not the speech.

    January 29, 2014 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  14. captcaps

    So the Jarhead Republican Congressmen wanted it candy coated but the Reporter wanted Down And Dirty.....A Navy man would have never resorted to threats of violence, higher IQ i'd guess.... Charles Bowen Solomon Stone

    January 29, 2014 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  15. Wake up People!

    Oh he called and apologized...... Everything is now peachy keen right? He's not sorry, he's sorry he got caught, just like all of them.

    January 29, 2014 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  16. Stop the Madness

    I am a "tell it like it is" Republican. The congressman is a BULLY and needs to resign immediately.

    January 29, 2014 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  17. ShawnDH

    Mike whined: "I probably would have done the same thing to this classless reporter! Was he from CNN?"

    Typical Republican. Can't handle simple questions without resorting to thuggery and violence. You're proud of this?

    January 29, 2014 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  18. NYVeteran

    His hot hotheadedness may be the reason that is alot of FORMER things....

    January 29, 2014 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  19. Sniffit

    Fact: most of the MSM, including CNN, likes what Grimm did because they seriously don't want to be watching other reporters ask real questions of these congresscritters...that might lead to them getting held to that standard and being forced to actually do some real journalism, and they can't have that. Real journalism isn't as lucrative as the hot garbage we witness them produce on a daily basis.

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

    Mike asked:

    I probably would have done the same thing to this classless reporter! Was he from CNN?
    Seriously? You have demonstrated just how willfully misinformed conservatives can really be. Here's a hint. Since you apparently were unable to read the article, I have good news for you. There's a picture. Look in the upper right corner. See?

    January 29, 2014 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  21. Jennifer

    I'm not surprised by his actions because he is a Former Marine, not the other way around Courtenay Craig. Notice that the culture of bullying, such as this, has increased at the same time as the military vamp up after 9-11. This country needs help, bad! I feel bad for this man's wife and children. The New York department of Families and Children services should honestly open an investigation to ensure they are safe. I am so offended that we give military and government a blank check for bad behavior.

    January 29, 2014 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  22. Desel

    Representative Grimm's behavior shows why nothing can ever get accomplished in the United States Congress. If
    the reporter had threatened the congressman the way the congressman threatened this reporter there would be a warrant out for for the reporters arrest.

    January 29, 2014 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  23. Sniffit

    Grimm should be censured by the House for threatening someone like that. Had this been a Dem with the current House makeup, the GOP/Teatrolls would already be using the words "crime" and "resignation" every sentence and bopping around the MSM in an indignant huff, while the House Ethics Committee would already have an ethics investigation in full swing.

    January 29, 2014 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  24. Sniffit

    "Define compromise, then."

    Teatroll Rosetta Stone says: "I get what I want and you get nothing, but then I still blame you if anything goes wrong."

    January 29, 2014 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  25. pablo

    Bottom line is if the reporter agreed to only discuss the outcome of the State of the Union and then tries a fast one he should be reprimanded for shady reporting tactics... he also said he wasn't scared... Just look at his face! He was a bout to soil himself... he got what he deserved for pulling that garbage.

    January 29, 2014 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
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