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. Bob

    Very misleading link to this on the main page. There was no assault, just a death threat (still a crime).

    January 29, 2014 04:03 am at 4:03 am |

    I am not surprised and wouldn't expect anything less from aember of the GOP party!

    I am certain the charges are genuinely accurate and wouldn't be surprised if he wasn't the only crooked GOP politician. Not that many politicians are probably honest in either of the two parties.

    January 29, 2014 04:04 am at 4:04 am |
  3. Greg Lange

    Rep Grimm is apparently not man enough to apologize for threatening to kill (aka throw off the balcony at the US Capital) a reporter who tried to ask him about his illegal campaign fundraising activities. A real man doesn't have to make threats to avoid a valid issue and a real man doesn't have to resort to illegal activities to get elected.

    January 29, 2014 04:14 am at 4:14 am |
  4. Sheila

    Woops. Time to go write your book now, dude. You're done.

    January 29, 2014 04:19 am at 4:19 am |
  5. Alero mii

    I don't sanction aggression, but reporters could be cheeky sometimes, and for every action expect a reaction

    January 29, 2014 04:28 am at 4:28 am |
  6. Berticode

    Ah a Christian boy from the 'right' party at his finest moral behavior

    January 29, 2014 04:29 am at 4:29 am |
  7. Ron Thibodeau

    The Congressman says "I expect a certain level of professionalism and respect" and yet he was unable to offer that, himself. A reporter asking an 'unscripted' question, or one that you do not want to answer is not dis-respect, its what they are paid to do.

    January 29, 2014 04:40 am at 4:40 am |
  8. Danny

    So.... a hot head Republican became upset at someone with the audacity to question him regarding his criminal behavior? How is this news?

    January 29, 2014 04:54 am at 4:54 am |
  9. bob

    Don't tell me, let me guess. This is part of the Republican Party's image building strategy, just like Christie's tough guy talk.

    January 29, 2014 04:55 am at 4:55 am |
  10. Ray Perez

    Sleezy congressman! Should not be in congress.

    January 29, 2014 04:55 am at 4:55 am |
  11. tet1953

    You can send him to college to learn some big words, put him in a fancy suit, and send him to DC. Turns out, he's still just a thug.

    January 29, 2014 04:58 am at 4:58 am |
  12. Jim Bob

    It was a cheap shot. Perhaps the reporter will do a better job studying who is he is talking to prior to sucker-punching him with a comment about campaign finances.

    January 29, 2014 05:01 am at 5:01 am |
  13. Dee

    Wow! The nerve of this reporter for asking questions.

    January 29, 2014 05:21 am at 5:21 am |
  14. Janie Luis

    I guess politicians think that they can get away with anything these days, and maybe they can.

    January 29, 2014 05:29 am at 5:29 am |
  15. Thomas

    Michael Grimm Republican thug !
    I can understand why he didn't last long with the FBI , the guy has no cool.

    January 29, 2014 05:41 am at 5:41 am |
  16. Jet

    What an immature freshman politician.
    Grow up little man, you are obviously not ready for serious politics.

    January 29, 2014 05:45 am at 5:45 am |

    HILARIOUS watching the Guns Over People tea potty implode as they walk the plank toward November.

    January 29, 2014 05:55 am at 5:55 am |
  18. Bill

    Typical ambush tactics, favored by reporters looking for sensationalistic headlines. Probably had to change his drawers, after that episode!

    January 29, 2014 05:56 am at 5:56 am |
  19. Michael MN

    I forgot that you being a member of Congress are not accountable to the american people

    January 29, 2014 06:00 am at 6:00 am |
  20. Anonymous

    I love how these folks "think" they are untouchable and I mean both sides. Sounds like he's guilty as well, specially for flying off the handle like that.

    January 29, 2014 06:08 am at 6:08 am |
  21. Jay

    Should he be called a "thug" for what he just did , Sherman was called a thug but this guy actually threaten this reporter and it's ok . Why is that ??

    January 29, 2014 06:14 am at 6:14 am |
  22. Kyle

    So if he has been known to get testy, why push him. Why get offended when he gets angry?

    January 29, 2014 06:18 am at 6:18 am |
  23. RalphS

    Jeez, what a hot head! It WAS a valid question. I also wonder if the reporter was motre robust in physical size, if the Congressman would have postured as he did. I doubt it.

    January 29, 2014 06:19 am at 6:19 am |
  24. Artifex

    Bullying seems to have become the predominant part of conservative thought and action.

    January 29, 2014 06:22 am at 6:22 am |
  25. Aeroman08

    Symbolic of the Grimm situation the GOP is in....

    January 29, 2014 06:26 am at 6:26 am |
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