New York congressman threatens to throw reporter off balcony
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Rep. Michael Grimm, R-New York, defended his actions late Tuesday night after he physically threatened a NY1 News reporter at the Capitol.
"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," Grimm said in a statement given to NY1, a CNN affiliate.
"I doubt that I am the first member of Congress to tell off a reporter, and I am sure I won't be the last," he added.
It started when Grimm, who's under investigation by the Justice Department for illegal fundraising during his 2010 campaign, walked away from an on-camera interview about the State of the Union after the reporter, Michael Scotto, tried to ask him questions about the 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."
With the camera still rolling, Grimm surges toward the reporter, who appears 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 broadcast the confrontation, 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.
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.
"I was extremely annoyed because I was doing NY1 a favor by rushing to do their interview first in lieu of several other requests," Grimm said in the statement. "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."
Scotto said he didn't expect much of a reaction to the question.
"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.
Grimm has been known to get testy with reporters in the past, including on CNN's "The Situation Room" last fall.