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. rs

    Whether the reporter was out of line or not, it was the Republican who lost it. Just another Right-wing punk who thinks he is above it all. You mess with the media- you lose. The GOP is too stupid to realize that.

    January 29, 2014 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  2. Lizzie

    Reporters dig into republican backgrounds, because of democrats allegations, but if it's a democrat then everything is fine and dandy.

    January 29, 2014 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  3. ConcernedCitizenVoter

    All these comments talking openly and seriously about wanting to toss people off balconies just for asking a question about an ongoing investigation, the same people who think everyone should have a gun on their hip.


    January 29, 2014 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  4. Anonymous

    He expects "respect" but acts like that. Typical POS congressman

    January 29, 2014 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  5. wishing

    CNN, speaks aggressively? I think threats and intimidation go beyond aggressive speaking. This man sounds dangerous. His 'supporters' should reconsider. Congress should sanction him.

    January 29, 2014 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  6. MattyinNC

    Would I be prosecuted if I threatened a Congressman that I was going to throw him off a balcony?

    January 29, 2014 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  7. Rudy NYC

    Gaats wrote:

    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
    They were four stories up. I applaud Mr. Scotto for remaining calm and composed. Most professional.

    Isn't this incident, including Grimm's unapologetic, "I was the real victim here," press release, a caricature of so many on the far right? If conservatives want to know what sensible people think of those in the far right wing, you need to look no further than this videotape. Whatever happened to freedom of speech, and respect the Constitution? I keep saying that the far right wing thinks the Bill of Rights begins with the 2nd Amendment.

    January 29, 2014 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  8. Mike

    This bully definitely has something to hide.

    January 29, 2014 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  9. Martin

    Congratulations to Staten Island and "parts of Brooklyn" for putting a caveman in the House!

    January 29, 2014 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  10. RoboKnuckle

    I just had a flashback of Pete Rose being interviewed by Jim Gray.

    January 29, 2014 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  11. tonyboies

    There should never be an approved list of questions when it comes to interviewing a Congress member. Everything should be fair game. They are paid too much to not be open for any line of questioning.....and we are paying them.

    January 29, 2014 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  12. Quixote

    Another shining example of todays gop. When asked a question you do not like because it exposes you as a fraud or a criminal, threaten violence.

    He has clearly learned the lessons of the cristy approach.

    January 29, 2014 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  13. Darrell

    He absolutely should throw that reporter off the balcony. They're getting ridiculous trying to dig up dirt where there is none.

    January 29, 2014 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  14. Quixote

    Isn't that considered both assault and making a terroristic threat?

    January 29, 2014 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  15. rs


    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.
    Ever hear of the First Amendment? Surprise! Reporters can ask whatever they want. Only stupid people think roughing up a member of the media will turn out well for them. This Congressman IS stupid.

    January 29, 2014 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  16. Cwhat'sNew

    He sounds pretty much like Whity Bulger to me. To cover up criminal doing, threat, physical threat first, then real physical doing.

    January 29, 2014 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  17. O'drama ya Mama

    While the Republicans continue to complain about the lack of "transparency" in this administration a Republican is asked a question and refuses to answer while threatening the reporters life. GOP the party of hypocrisy.

    January 29, 2014 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  18. Teahaddist223

    A Republican? Who would have thought?

    Guess who is now the darling of the teaparty?

    January 29, 2014 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  19. Bubba Ray

    He's a Republican? Then it must all be fault of that lamestream media.

    January 29, 2014 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  20. Traci

    I think this is abhorrent. These congressmen think they can do whatever they want. I am a teacher and if I spoke to a student I was "annoyed" with like this I would be fired. Why can he talk like this? It is lthe same with all of these ridiculous tactics they use when it comes to the budget, etc. Their job is to set a budget and when they bicker and can't agree, they shut down the gov't. All if us on the private and public sector would be fired if we just said, "We can't agree how to deal with this problem so we're just going to stop teaching or stop production...". How about some accountability for these congressmen?!

    January 29, 2014 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  21. James Tarkin

    I vote democrat, and I would have thrown him off the balcony – it's not a repub or gun-toting thing. Does he still belong in congress? If his behavior represents his constituents, then yes! American needs to know there are plenty of people that don't put up with dirty journalism.

    January 29, 2014 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  22. Rudy NYC

    Look, Ma. It's a Chris Christie supporter.

    January 29, 2014 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  23. Badtea

    Another Republican thug showing his "values." Hope he finds lots of tough guys to pal around with in jail.

    January 29, 2014 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  24. julie

    oh oh another republican goes ganster, I would of loved to hear the reporter say "ya go ahead and try to toss me off"
    little dude looked kind of scared

    January 29, 2014 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  25. Ray E (Georgia)

    Well, Wonder's never cease,
    Reminds me of an incident where Jimmy Carter was vacationing in the Golden Isles. A neighbor who ran a aircraft service was expected to load all the Press's baggage onto the carts or some such service. They all looked at him as if he was supposed to wait on them, hand and foot. I think he let them "Serve" themselves. I think he basically said, The Hell with them. As some of you know, the press has it's own plane, or did and travel everyplace the President goes. At the expense of the Taxpayers. No doubt no reporter ever went to Finishing School. Um, sorry, most of you don't know what finishing school is either. Excuse!!

    January 29, 2014 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
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