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. Voter37

    The correct response is "I'm only here to comment of the State of the Union tonight but all the facts will be presented as the investigation unfolds. Thank you." And walk away.....I miss the time when elected officials had some class.

    January 29, 2014 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  2. Wake up People!

    All those defending this thug know good and well reporters rarely stick to the subject at hand. And if you're in the middle of a scandal, even one kept on the low, they are going to ask about it. This Congressman is no more than any thug off the street. If he were a dem or had this been the POTUS, you would all be screaming impeachment.

    But as usual, IOKIYAR. The eternal victims.

    January 29, 2014 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  3. Doug

    Ooooh, Mr. tough guy... I would have punched him in the face. Just because you are a former marine/FBI person doesn't mean that you aren't a chump.

    January 29, 2014 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  4. why so serious

    While the reporter may not feel threatened ...but as a tax payer I am !
    Dear Mr Eric Holder ...Riddle me this ...when is justice for "JUST US"?

    January 29, 2014 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  5. Rick McDaniel

    The reporter was out of line, that is obvious. The scenario was a set up, for a political attack, by a partisan reporter.

    You do that......especially when we know most of the charges being levied, are simply DOJ political attacks, without substance. That is what Obama does......he tries to go after anyone who opposes him.........and he files trumped up charges that have no substance.

    The reporter himself......would be under attack, (possibly physically), if he was an opponent of Obama. That is how Obama behaves........he sicks the IRS on you, to look for anything they can find, he accuses you of some technicality, or he physically attacks and kills you, if it really is a serious matter.

    It is true.......that many reporters now fear this President.......and his vengeful approach to his opposition.

    January 29, 2014 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  6. Kathleen

    Looks like the reporter hit a nerve! Keep digging Michael. His true colors are showing

    January 29, 2014 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  7. Kelcy

    Clearly this guy has some anger management issues. If he's under investigation for anything then it is always fair game for a reporter to ask a question related to it during the course of asking about other topics. All he had to say was "I won`t discuss that now as the topic of conversation is the SOTU and XXX. If you wish to discuss the other then you can set up an appt with my staff." If the reporter persisted then the congressman could have said well that is all the time I have, have a good rest of your evening and then walked away.

    He's probably one of those screamers that you find in military offices all over the place (perhaps in offices everywhere). Run into a few of them. Sad for his office staff. Wonder how he survived in the FBI.

    January 29, 2014 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  8. Rene Suarez

    The stones on this congressman to make such threats! If roles had been reveresed that same threat would of landed someone in prison..

    January 29, 2014 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  9. harrisonhits2

    I was extremely annoyed that you were addressing my illegal activities as you had every right to do, and since I continue in office trying to conceal those illegal activities, I think I have the right to give you a beating for having the nerve to ask about them.

    Just another piece of human filth that populates congress.

    January 29, 2014 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  10. kahuna

    The reporter should have invoked "Stand Your Ground" and filled the congressman full of lead.

    I wonder how the GOP would respond to that?

    January 29, 2014 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  11. MaryM

    So when the republican bully does not want to answer a question he threatens to throw the reporter off the balcony.
    Typical republican.

    January 29, 2014 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  12. DBSaint

    So what's more surprising, The reporter who tried to sandbag the representative or the representative for not being professional? I go with the reporter because he twisted the story for ratings. A great example of "yellow journalism". Of course the represenative needs to expect things like this when you're under investigation.

    January 29, 2014 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  13. Joe M.

    Being from Staten Island, I can honestly say he's a man of the people, haha. Every other interview I saw on every news station prior to the SOTU was strictly about the SOTU and what the Pres was likely to speak about. Not surprising Grimm took it badly when the reporter veered off topic into a sensitive issue that the reported likely knows he can't discuss, then alludes to Grimm's guilt when he gets angry and refuses to answer the question.

    January 29, 2014 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  14. citizen

    I am stupid, I am humiliated and I appologize. Sounds familiar. Same politicians. Welcome to Millionaires cloub.

    January 29, 2014 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  15. Rudy NYC

    I found Mr. Grimm's choice of words quite interesting. He wasn't interested in talking about the SOTU speech at all. He clearly stated that he "wanted to talk about the President."

    January 29, 2014 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  16. Rudy NYC


    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.
    You do realzie that Mr. Grimm probably committed a crime, don't you? Relax. Mr. Scotto has already indicated that he does not wish to press any charges, and said he chooses to let the video speak for itself; just as you, myself, and others have.

    January 29, 2014 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  17. SkepticalOne

    There are people on here defending this thug, seriously? I would not accept this kind of behavior from a child much less an adult representative to congress. The man should be ashamed of himself.

    January 29, 2014 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  18. stewart

    toss his butt from the congress. but they wont they protect their own. the reported needs to file charges against the meat head.

    January 29, 2014 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  19. EG

    If Grimm felt the charges or investigation was nothing more than a political attack he should have stated that instead of threatening to throw the reporter off the balcony....so, the country has evolved to the point where if you ask a leader of the civilized nation a question he or she has not approved, it is acceptable for them to throw you off a balcony.

    January 29, 2014 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  20. Lynda/Minnesota

    "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."

    Congressman Grimm is not a man who has what it takes to represent the best of America. Does he represent the worst of America? Most definitely.

    January 29, 2014 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  21. Frank Jones

    The reporter should know that this type of behavior is normal if he doesn't stay to the scripted questions. The reporter is lucky that this is not a stand your ground state.

    January 29, 2014 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  22. PtBarnumBoy

    Looks to me like someone needs to learn to either hide his illegal behavior better or find another job.

    January 29, 2014 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  23. midwest2

    Rep. Grimm was out-of-line and out-of-control. And there was nothing snide about the reporter's comments after Grimm refused to respond to the question about the investigation of his campaign finances. He was simply stating a fact; Rep. Grimm chose not to respond. He could have said, "That's a question for another time," and then walked away. The threats and nastiness make me wonder what he's like when the cameras are not rolling. Scary!

    January 29, 2014 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  24. JY

    All those defending the congressmen and obvious bully. How many times have off topic or pointed questions been asked of the OTHER side and you defended it. PaLEASE! lose the hypocracy!
    These poeple put themselves in a position that this is part of their life now, live with it!
    All Grimm did was prove he does not deserve to represent his constituents because he made an obviou threat of physical violence to a person doing his job as a reporter, asking hard questions, and sorry, if Grimm is under investigation, is a valid question.

    January 29, 2014 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  25. JY

    Besides, why should the congressman get to say what questions should be asked? The reporter did his job, The congressman did not.

    January 29, 2014 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
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