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. Leeza

    Thug. His behavior was completely unacceptable, regardless of political affiliation. His rant on national TV shows that he is not fit to serve in public office.

    January 29, 2014 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  2. drkent3

    So, to those Republicans supporting Grimm on this – It's OK for a government official to threaten the press, because government is good and a free press is bad... do I have that right?

    January 29, 2014 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  3. Brooklyn

    But Richard Sherman is a thug right?

    January 29, 2014 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  4. JustASec

    Ask Darrell if you want to know who's guilty and innocent. Apparently he's clairvoyant.

    January 29, 2014 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  5. The REAL Truth...

    Anyone elected to office puts themselves in the public (and therefore the media's) eye at local, state and Federal levels. When an elected Congressman is under investigation for ________, they should expect questions from the press on the subject, whether they are attending the SOTU or Krispy's bridge closure planning meetings. Grimm's reaction is typical rw approach – you should behave the way I want you to and follow my rules. 3rd Degree "menacing" charges (Class A misdemeanor) should be filed against him. If I were the reporter, I'd insist. Don't want the media attention, don't put yourself in that position.

    January 29, 2014 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  6. dsummers

    This guy is a lunatic, getting angry is one thing but threatening to throw someone off a balcony or threatening physical harm to someone because they asked you a tough question is disturbiing one would expect more from a US Representative. One would think that politicians are use to being asked tough questions if he can't handle it any better than that he needs to resign and get out of the limelight.

    January 29, 2014 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  7. Wake UP

    The reporter is a NOT a man if he just sits back and does nothing. Grimm is a time bomb and typical school yard bully. The reporter coward down during the confrontation and now is saying he doesn't want to pursue legal actions. If that isn't cowardly, I don't know what is.

    January 29, 2014 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  8. Wake up People!

    Stay classy GOP, you've been on a roll the past few weeks.

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

    Anger management issues. Wow.

    January 29, 2014 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  10. Kevin

    I don't see why everyone is against the Congressman. Everyone has this idea that the government is after you all, so when it may *seem* as an official has slipped, you're all over his case.

    Michael Grimm was doing the reporter a favor by answering questions in regard to a different topic, yet the reporter Michael Scotto rudely starting asking questions about an allegation.

    If you're doing a favor for a reporter, then he turns the tables and starts asking questions in regard to allegation, how would you react? The congressman is doing him a favor, but Michael Scotto is only there for his job, and to get as much details as he can.

    Give this guy a break, he probably is dealing with a lot of stressful due to this allegation to begin with.

    In my opinion, his actions are justified. The focus should be on the wrongdoings of Michael Scotto.

    January 29, 2014 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  11. smith

    @rs-I read the article from the post last night andtheir was no mention that raising the bac mac price by 5 cents would cover the min. wage increase. Also, the study concluded a result of “mixed evidence that higher minimum wages result in higher fast food prices.” Care to change your fairytale?

    January 29, 2014 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  12. rs


    Of course, a liberal Democratic congressman would never think of such a thing.
    post here when you find one, eh?

    January 29, 2014 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  13. smith

    Grimm's comments-stupid.
    The look on the reporter's face-priceless.

    January 29, 2014 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  14. rs

    When the GOP whines that the President "won't work with us" to pass bills, ignoring for now the "Birther" idiocy and the blatant racism of the TEA Party subdivision of the GOP, there are real threats like Grimm. Really? They think the President of the United States should sit down with thugs like this guy? Insane!
    The GOP has gotten so lost.

    January 29, 2014 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  15. mello rosenstein

    That's MY Congressman. On Staten Island we take no cr-p from anyone. Let that Mary complain all he wants. You know he won't ever come to visit the island.

    January 29, 2014 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  16. badianbrad

    I usually vote more conservative than liberal, often Repub, and there is nothing partisan about this incident, he is simply a bully and a thug, and should resign immediately, and maybe be charged with assault. "An assault is carried out by a threat of bodily harm coupled with an apparent, present ability to cause the harm."

    January 29, 2014 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  17. chris

    Ha, I love when politicians try and get tough. Reporters do need to have someone get in their face now and then.

    Why didn't CNN run this large a headline on the main screen when Democrat Congressman threatened something similar to a reporter in 2010? Or when Hillary cried "IT DOESN'T MATTER"?

    Yep, it is because this is a Republican.

    January 29, 2014 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  18. William

    Democrat, Republican or Independent this behavior is that of a thug or overgrown child. Just what we need in congress.

    January 29, 2014 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  19. Rudy NYC

    The REAL Truth wrote:

    ".. ... Grimm's reaction is typical rw approach – you should behave the way I want you to and follow my rules. 3rd Degree "menacing" charges (Class A misdemeanor) should be filed against him. If I were the reporter, I'd insist. Don't want the media attention, don't put yourself in that position. .. .."
    I listened to Scotto this morning while navigating icy roads and fresh snow. Scotto indicated that he will not personally file any charges, saying that he preferred to let the video speak for itself.

    January 29, 2014 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  20. Hamlet

    Should have thrown him off the balcony, the reporter knew exactly what he was doing and it was underhanded.

    January 29, 2014 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  21. Marty, FL

    Disgusting. Even worse those here defending & enabling the bully.

    January 29, 2014 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  22. achtman

    So Grimm did not have time to answer another question, but he did have time to come back to threaten Mr. Scotto. Interesting set of priorities.

    January 29, 2014 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  23. Tex

    What happened to political leaders being public servants who are held responsible to the public for their actions? This reporter was trying to do just that.

    January 29, 2014 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  24. Ovawendon

    This guy is a bully and a thug! He needs to be "thrown" out of office. The journalist did nothing wrong by saying that he refused to answer, he did refuse to answer and walked away. Actions speak louder than words Congressman! So does Karma!

    January 29, 2014 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  25. momzna

    The journalist was wrong in the first place. Congressman Grimm refused to answer any further questions and the interview was over. Then the journalist voiced his question and offered a potentially damaging comment behind the congressman's back.

    January 29, 2014 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
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