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. jrhodeisland

    As Steve Wilcos would say nothing hits a raw nerve worse than suppressed guilt. Someone feeling guilty about something?

    January 29, 2014 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  2. tom l

    Define compromise, then

    I'll give you a perfect, real life example of a compromise. Let's look at immigration. I feel that the people that are here or came here illegally should be able to stay. I believe that as long as they haven't broken any major laws then, by all means, they can stay here and live legally. I do believe, however, there should be ramifications for their illegal behavior and breaking our rules. Due to their rule breaking, which if I was in their situation I would do as well, I feel that the penalty should be that they can't participate in voting. That would be a fair compromise. They can stay but they can't help choose who our elected officials are. That's a compromise, right?

    January 29, 2014 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  3. ShawnDH

    pablo whined: "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."

    It's astonishing that you are defending this horrible behavior by a Congressman! Shady reporting tactics...like asking a question? Where are your values?

    January 29, 2014 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  4. JackBriss

    He should have been arrested. If anyone did that to him, you can bet your life you would be arrested.

    January 29, 2014 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  5. Matt

    Is this that evil liberal media at work again righties?

    January 29, 2014 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  6. Rudy NYC

    Inevitable Truth wrote:

    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. ... ...
    Sorry, Charlie. Scotto did ask a question. Scotto had questioned Grimm about the newest allegations that he and other reporters have been asking Grimm since they broke two weeks ago. Grimm replied that he "wanted to talk about the President." Notice that he didn't want to talk about the speech, just the President.

    Grimm has been playing cat and mouse with the press concerning the latest allegations. In his myopic eagerness to impress his constituents at home by "talking about the President" in front of a TV camera, it would seem that Grimm somehow managed to completely forget that he was supposed to be playing cat and mouse with local NYC media. In other words, he allowed his enthusiasm to bash Pres. Obama to overwhelm his priorities. He was literally blinded by his own hatred of Obama.

    January 29, 2014 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  7. tom l

    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.

    Lol. I could have sworn you were saying exactly the same thing about dems good repubs bad with regards to Trey Radel. All the hardcore left kept saying were inane things like this (and then he resigned making you all look like children). For a smart man, I cannot believe that you think that dems are so altruistic. Especially with examples on BOTH sides of the aisle. Let's start with Vitter on the repub side and Rangel on the dem side. This could be fun! Repubs nor dems own transgressions or idiotic acts. Shall I go on or would you like to remain blinded on your high horse?

    January 29, 2014 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  8. ShawnDH

    Sam whined: "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".

    This has nothing to do with Obama and it's people like you who are dividing this country with your lies and hyperbole. Obama has gone to great lengths to compromise with Republicans...which was a MISTAKE.

    January 29, 2014 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  9. Samuel Johnston

    Overreacted ?!
    That's an understatement, me thinks you may also be hiding a substance abuse problem.
    Your rant comes right out of some ghetto, and we are paying you to represent us, who do you represent.

    January 29, 2014 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  10. wwf

    Typical politician. I over reacted, I did not mean to say that, I was misunderstood, I did not mean the way it was said, etc. etc. etc. Sorry, once it is said, it is said.

    January 29, 2014 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  11. sammy750

    The Republicans are great at apologize after they make bad statements. Would the American people trust them to run the nation. The Republicans are not competent to even be in office. No wonder the nation is in a crisis. The people need to decide if they want law makers like Grimm being in office. It is time voters make smart decision and defeat them.

    January 29, 2014 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  12. conoclast

    Does the bully mentality gravitate naturally to the republican party? Or do republicans somehow manage to bring it out in each other?

    I think it's the former - and that it's just one of the things sowing too-big-to-fail reaps.

    January 29, 2014 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  13. Sergeant

    If he does this in front of the cameras, what does he do when no one is looking?

    January 29, 2014 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  14. Artifex

    In the land of right wing paranoid politics conservatives manufacture threats where they don't exist, and like all bullies are quick to make their own.

    January 29, 2014 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  15. Brickell Princess

    I would accept an apology after, and only after, I see drug test results on Rep. Michael Grimm, R-New York. That man was as high as a skyscraper.

    January 29, 2014 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  16. DrewL

    Perhaps the reporter is a Wesen? We know they don't much like Grimms.

    January 29, 2014 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  17. marcia

    SMH..And people say liberals are the idiots. A criminal and a bully. Wonderful role model for our children...

    January 29, 2014 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  18. sammy750

    This is the mind set of the Republicans open mouth, speak and then apologize for what was said.

    January 29, 2014 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  19. martiniano

    I am waiting for the remixes to show up on Youtube. "Like a boy" It will be good.

    January 29, 2014 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  20. Grinning Libber

    He probably got a call from GOP "leadership"
    But never mind he diverted all attention away from the GOP rebuttal speeches – so all is good.

    January 29, 2014 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  21. Big_D

    In my state he would be in jail for felony menacing. I guess you don't really have to follow the law as a congressman since he is getting away with this with plenty of evidence he did it.

    January 29, 2014 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  22. JohnRJohnson

    I DON'T CARE IF THIS GRIMM DUDE IS A REPUBLICAN, DEMOCRAT OR TEA PARTYER. Threatening a reporter with physical violence is, at the very least, grounds for censure, if not expulsion from Congress. This guy's salary is paid by tax payers. He gets no pass for this kind of behavior. If a cop had overheard this, Grimm would have been in cuffs. Threatening someone's life is a felony.

    January 29, 2014 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  23. MC-MSgt

    I can hardly blame him for going off on a reporter. They are like a swarm of gnats circling, biting, picking at everyone they think will make headlines and get them noticed. They may have the right to print what they think is truth and rub whatever political slant they and their network or paper lean towards, but nobody, not even elected officials, are obligated to talk to them. Particularly about allegations or pending legal matters.

    Have we really turned into a nation that feels that everyone should bow down to the press just for publicity sake?

    January 29, 2014 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  24. humtake

    Nobody should EVER have to apologize to the media. Sorry, but the media has abused the 1st Amendment more than every other group has ever abused any other Amendment combined. Freedom of speech to them means the freedom to do whatever they want to anyone else as long as there is a camera there.

    January 29, 2014 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  25. ShawnDH

    This is illegal. He should be arrested.

    January 29, 2014 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
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