January 29th, 2014
01:18 AM ET
9 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. skarphace

    Dopeoplereally Writethisstuff: "I would be willing to bet EACH and EVERYONE of you, when you got po'd at someone at some point in your life made a similar comment..... So line up to be prosecuted....."

    So if your child was a reporter and I threatened to throw him off a balcony if he asked me a similar question, you would not take that threat seriously? I am willing to bet that you would press charges. If I was that reporter, I would have.

    January 29, 2014 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  2. Rudy NYC

    "Won't quit? It was ONE question...he was not pestered, he was asked ONE question...since when is asking one question "just won't quit"?"
    What is not being clearly communicated in this article is their history, and all that led up to this public meltdown by Grimm. Grimm's been running and hiding from local newsreporters for the past two weeks, ever since new evidence for the criminal investigation into his 2010 campaign surfaced about two weeks ago..

    January 29, 2014 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  3. kelly

    good job genius. most of us didn't know who you were or about your illegal fundraising, but now we do! i'll be following you to make sure you go to jail. where you will be split in two; down the middle 😉

    January 29, 2014 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  4. dkeller2929

    a terrorist threat?

    from a republican?

    no way....

    January 29, 2014 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  5. kelly

    good job genius most of us didn't know who you were or about your illegal fundraising. we do now! i'll be following you to make sure you end up in prison. where YOU will be split in two; right down the middle 😉 say hi to bubba for me.

    January 29, 2014 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  6. Dave

    Try calling his DC office. He's not answering and his voicemail box is full.

    Congressman Grimm, it is time for you to resign.

    January 29, 2014 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  7. superpolitician

    he is a lawmaker? Wow.. I guess new yorkers better watch out.. he will use his power to get your wife and children!

    January 29, 2014 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  8. Todd

    Don't take this as an excuse, or believing in his political view point. But the new reporters do very manipulative things, to try to get these people in the worse light possible. It isn't about finding the truth, but trying to make news, that people will watch.
    Also in Downstate NY, that is how people talk. If they are angry, they let you know that they are angry.

    January 29, 2014 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  9. skarphace

    Grimm better hope that Scotto does not turn up missing or dead any time soon. He would be prime suspect. Way to use your brain, Congressman! What a stand-up Teapublican. Ok, over there this is par for the course.

    January 29, 2014 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  10. with a grain of salt

    You can run, but you can't hide, can't you just hire a huge legal defense team like Christie? So he's hiding from he press, being investigated, and threatens a mans life. Sounds like a victim to me if ever there was, poor guy.

    January 29, 2014 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  11. why so serious

    "Bullying" plain and simple, something a congressman shouldn't do. He apologizes because he got caught, but a bully is little more than what you see in Mr. "Grimm"

    January 29, 2014 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  12. Fred Derf

    That's resignation worthy. We don't need thugs in elected office.

    January 29, 2014 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  13. with a grain of salt

    He did infact allude to being a victim, simply amazing! Being Republican means never having to say your sorry.

    January 29, 2014 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  14. HenryNewton32

    Grimm is acused of being a thief and now proven to be a thug.
    Why is this guy still holding office?
    He should be out on the street pimping.

    January 29, 2014 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  15. GetReal

    The Grimm Reaper......

    January 29, 2014 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  16. Rusty Sinclair

    Wow...this is what is wrong with Congress. He made a death threat and he should be prosecuted.

    January 29, 2014 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  17. Thomas

    Michael Grimm (R-NY) made following his August venture to Israel ...paid for by lobbyists .

    Who paid for Grimm's 5 stare hotel vacation in Cypress ?

    January 29, 2014 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  18. GetReal

    Really, That's he best retort he could up with.

    January 29, 2014 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  19. Il

    just another psychopath politician

    January 29, 2014 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  20. Bill, warm in Florida

    If the reporter (or you or I) had said (or written) those words to the Congressman, we would be in violation of Federal Law and would be sent to prison.
    They've created "Ruling Class" that has its own separate laws and exclusions.
    We're re-enacting the Roman Empire, much to our peril.

    January 29, 2014 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  21. ShawnDH

    This is how Republicans react to a free press in our country. It's shocking.

    January 29, 2014 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  22. Wake up People!

    Why is it these people are never sorry until someone gets them on tape???

    January 29, 2014 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  23. Doug in NYC

    Resign sir, you are a disgrace! I don't want my tax dollars supporting you, your perks nor your family! Get a real job!

    January 29, 2014 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  24. PushingBack

    What have we become when we let our appointed representation treat other citizens in this manner. Sure he's a reporter and his job is to ask the hard questions. Any politician knows that if they have any sense!

    January 29, 2014 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  25. The Real Tom Paine

    If Grimm were a Democrat and that had been a FOX affiliate, there would be a Tea party mob complete with pitchforks and torches demanding his death and/or resignation within minutes. Excusing or rationalizing away his behavior does not help, and expecting a country with a free press to muzzle itself from investigating a possible abuse of power is dangerous, to say the least. Anyway, that reporter was no more rude than Bill O'Reilly, and considerably more gracious.

    January 29, 2014 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
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