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. Jeff Johnson

    Congressman, I am man enough! Threaten me like that and we will see who goes off a balcony. Stop being a crook.

    January 29, 2014 06:30 am at 6:30 am |
  2. Pamik

    "It is extremely disturbing when anyone threatens one of our reporters – let alone a U.S. Congressman" Why do we want to hold congressmen/women to a higher level but they are no better than the average joe next door? They're just like us and unfortunately you have just as many liars and cheaters in DC as anywhere else. Just thought this was s funny comment to make.

    January 29, 2014 06:35 am at 6:35 am |
  3. Marie MD

    Yes, because threatening to throw somebody off a balcony shows so much respect and professionalism.
    Then again, another teaklan and ethics violations. There's a news flash
    Most rethugs only feel like a man with a gun in their hands or attacking women.

    January 29, 2014 06:35 am at 6:35 am |
  4. chuck

    What a bully and a coward to wait till he thinks the camera isn't rolling. Be a man and speak your mind on tv you crook!

    January 29, 2014 06:35 am at 6:35 am |
  5. Mike

    The congressman is a thug. His political career is toast.

    January 29, 2014 06:42 am at 6:42 am |
  6. john

    the seahawk's sherman looks like a choir-boy compared to the thug michael grimm.

    January 29, 2014 06:45 am at 6:45 am |
  7. ron

    Ha ha. Reporters and Congressmen from both parties should throw themselves of the highest balconies they can find.

    January 29, 2014 06:48 am at 6:48 am |
  8. sammy750

    Republican NY M. Grimm showed the world who the real Republicans are. His girl friend is being charged with criminal acts. I hope the people of NY fire this guy. And he is in DC running our nation. The people of the USA should be frighten with the Republicans, their acts and lack of doing anything in DC. FIRED GRIMM, the criminal and threatening a reporter for asking a question. He deserves to be charged with a criminal threat.

    January 29, 2014 06:57 am at 6:57 am |
  9. Mada

    "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."

    "And like any schoolyard bully, I felt the best response to an uncomfortable question was to get in the reporter's face, threaten him with death, and taunt him like a Batman villain."

    January 29, 2014 06:57 am at 6:57 am |
  10. Jack

    That is the cop coming out of him. They all have that air of elite-ness and feel above the constitution and every principle behind it when it comes to their own egos and wants.

    January 29, 2014 06:59 am at 6:59 am |
  11. MrRickinNH

    Typical republican... thinks he can bully his way around... and after questions about illegal campaign finance. Big part of what's wrong!

    January 29, 2014 07:00 am at 7:00 am |
  12. Jim

    If this rep doesn't get labelled a thug & isn't taken to task more than Richard Sherman, it'll say a lot about our dear country. No double standards here... This rep was waaaay out of line.

    January 29, 2014 07:04 am at 7:04 am |
  13. Meg

    Bully! That should not be allowed!

    January 29, 2014 07:05 am at 7:05 am |
  14. Edgar

    Unaaceptable to threaten to kill someone. Representative needs to step down. Now.

    January 29, 2014 07:06 am at 7:06 am |
  15. Jeff Lundberg

    Semoper Fi Congressman! Don't take crap from nobody!

    January 29, 2014 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  16. Dan K

    This Grimm guy is an embarrassment to America. Lord Acton, a British historian was right about people like this guy in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men." And this guy is abusing his power and has gotten corrupted. If he is doing this in public... What in the world is going on behind closed doors?? It has to be no good. People like this need to step back and get rid of power out of their lives if they want to have a hope of becoming un-corrupted again.

    January 29, 2014 07:15 am at 7:15 am |
  17. Bob

    Someone needs to remind Grimm that he is a public servant who is suppose to serve the people who gave him the privilege of representing them in Congress. And the job involves talking to the press – and doing so with "professionalism and respect." Instead he behaves like an egomaniacal thug. Aren't there laws against threatening someone with physical harm?

    January 29, 2014 07:15 am at 7:15 am |
  18. Guest

    Oh good, another opportunity for insightful CNN readers to insinuate that all Republicans are violent madmen, constantly struggling to restrain the urge to throw people off balconies. I can't wait, thanks Congressman!

    January 29, 2014 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  19. Kevin

    Where is the attack?

    January 29, 2014 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  20. Miked

    He's not man enough to answer any questions truthfully.

    January 29, 2014 07:19 am at 7:19 am |
  21. Boston Jay

    That was awesome, about time someone in politics stood up to the media. I,ll throw u off this balcony, frigin priceless!!!

    January 29, 2014 07:19 am at 7:19 am |
  22. veep

    You're doing no one but yourself favors, Mr. Grimm.

    I think we will thank you for your service by showing you your cell.

    January 29, 2014 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
  23. Gaats

    He'll apologize later, as if that will justify acting like a little gangster. If he had done that to me, he'd be a couple of teeth short this morning

    January 29, 2014 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
  24. Tampa Tim

    Bully for him. Another republican moron.

    January 29, 2014 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  25. Harley Baker

    After reviewing the video it seems that the Congressman needs to relax a little bit and learn some "Professionalism" himself. Respect doesn't normally always come along with a title. Respect has to be earned. The Congressman may not be the first person to yell at a reporter, but it is no excuse to threaten a news reporter's life by saying you are going to throw them off a balcony.

    January 29, 2014 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
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