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. Are you kidding me?

    What a disgrace- a total disgrace and an embarrassment. He should be voted out. The GOP is nothing more than a group of ignorant bullies. This is yet again another example where the people deserve much better from our elected officials.

    What do the righties who talk about Chicago politics have to say about this bully?

    Hold your elected officials accountable.

    January 29, 2014 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  2. JP

    Dont like to answer personal questions about ur personal life..Get out of public office..they always be asked even when u dont expect it..ur reaction to them says a lot about who u are

    January 29, 2014 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  3. lloyd roberts

    Typical politician piece of garbage. Could you imagine if one of us was caught on camera threatening to throw someone off a balcony and threaten to break them in two on camera!..We would have spent the night in jail with hefty bail. Politicians, cops, judges, prosecutors protect one another. Human waste

    January 29, 2014 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
  4. Are you kidding me?

    This guy's response to losing his composure is absurd to say the least. If he asks for respect that give it first – getting in his face and threatening to throw him off a balcony or break him in half proves to me he has no respect and should not be in any elected or leadership role.

    He could have waked away and not looked back.

    January 29, 2014 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
  5. Thomas

    Why is this "man" in government?

    January 29, 2014 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
  6. Bravo

    I actually applaud the congressmen for not apologizing, even if he did lose his temper a bit. I am tired of backpedaling, sniveling apologies by insincere politicians and celebrities who cross some line of political correctness or manners and then get called out on it. For merely giving offense, a man should never apologize unless HE wants to. Not out of fear or deference to any groups or any kind of pressure.

    This congressman is a real man and he just moved up a few notches in my eye. We need some real men in D.C.

    January 29, 2014 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  7. Tom Bukowski

    Your mature Congressman at work.

    January 29, 2014 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  8. iceload

    disrespectful – a term to excuse any behavior

    January 29, 2014 07:40 am at 7:40 am |
  9. Dan Floss

    I'm tired of reporters harassing people and using their role as a scapegoat.

    January 29, 2014 07:41 am at 7:41 am |
  10. Umm...

    If the Rep. Grimm didn't have enough time to answer the question, then why did he have enough time to threaten a reporter's life?

    January 29, 2014 07:42 am at 7:42 am |
  11. WTF

    Anyone else other than a congressman would have been arrested for threats of violence against another person, how humiliating for common man to know his elected official is above the law on every level... wake up america the only people living "the dream" are your elected officials, sounds like North Korea attitude in the higher ranks....

    January 29, 2014 07:42 am at 7:42 am |
  12. Namejeff

    What's the difference between Sherman and Grimm??........no difference, they both have thuggish attitudes, they are no good!

    January 29, 2014 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  13. Stephen Daugherty

    People like him use antagonism with the media in order to get their voters to disbelieve charges against them. Indulging that has left voters with a lot of corrupt and incompetent leaders, and I don't think that's a coincidence.

    January 29, 2014 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  14. that's awsome

    Congressman has my vote – good for him

    January 29, 2014 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
  15. Don Jones

    The good Americans on Staten Island must be very proud of their elected official. What part of Mississippi is Staten Island?

    January 29, 2014 07:47 am at 7:47 am |
  16. badcyclist

    A Republican bully? I am shocked. Shocked.

    January 29, 2014 07:50 am at 7:50 am |
  17. Bobbb

    It started when Grimm, who's under investigation by the Justice Department for illegal fundraising during his 2010 campaign, walked away" NO NO NO NO NO !!! It started when the "reporter" Michael Scotto (and I use the term only because that is the way he is referred to in the article) started abusing his privilege by asking questions that did not pertain to the topic at hand- The State of the Union speech. Michael Scotto should be blackballed from any more political interviews.

    January 29, 2014 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  18. Keith

    "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."

    Yeah, and you would not put this story out there if he was not a republician. Whats more unacceptable, saying someone deserves to have someone deficate in their mouth, or telling someone you are going to throw them from a balcony?

    I hate the double standards that are being applied by the "news Media". If it does not fit into your idea of what is right or wrong then you try to destroy it or make them{it} to be ineffective. What ever happened to the days when the reporters just reported. Remember the line from the old police drama? "Just the facts ma'am, just the facts." Now it is just the hype, nothing but the hype. Lets only report the news WE like, Lets just slant it the way WE want you to think.

    But I am sure that this story will stick around for a few days.

    January 29, 2014 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  19. Brian

    Wondering if he takes his campaign finances 'to task' the same way he does with reporters. Probably so.

    January 29, 2014 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  20. alf564

    Just another liberal reporter following eric holders lead

    January 29, 2014 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  21. Salty Bob

    Another bully going down going down, he made a threat not telling someone off. I have to wonder if that's the way he runs his office kind of reminiscence of another in that part of the country.

    January 29, 2014 07:58 am at 7:58 am |
  22. lily

    Man up, scotto. Your the press. When you ask unexpected questions, expect the unexpected in response. If your gonna get all sensitive and "correct", cover PTA meetings.

    January 29, 2014 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  23. Dean

    Good for Mr. Grimm. The idiot reporter was looking for a confrontation, and found that he bit off more than he could chew. I hope he tries it again and gets tossed.

    January 29, 2014 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
  24. amber

    The reporter was only trying to do his job, and he was doing it professionally.

    The Rep. from NY should lose his job, which he was not doing any where near professionally.

    January 29, 2014 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  25. Siestasis

    Bully. When you cannot honestly answer a question then use bully tactics. We do not need this kind of person as an elected official. People complain about the news media but if there were no news media then these elected officials, who are mostly only interested in getting reelected and continuing their personal gravy train, would would have no one holding them accountable.

    January 29, 2014 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
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