Lawmaker threatened him over campaign funding question
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm apologized to a NY1 reporter the morning after he threatened to throw the journalist off a balcony in the Capitol building for asking a question about a federal investigation into his campaign finances was shown by the television news station Tuesday night.
NY1 reporter Michael Scotto wrote on his twitter account Wednesday morning that Grimm had called him to say he’s sorry. “@repmichaelgrimm called to apologize. He said he ‘overreacted.’ I accepted his apology,” Scotto wrote.
Grimm also issued a statement to the media expressing regret for his actions.
“I was wrong. I shouldn’t have allowed my emotions to get the better of me and lose my cool. I have apologized to Michael Scotto, which he graciously accepted, and will be scheduling a lunch soon,” Grimm stated.
It wasn’t immediately clear, however, if the apology would mean that the controversy would die down.
Former councilman Domenic Recchia, who plans to run against Grimm for the congressional seat in November, called the lawmaker’s outburst “disgraceful.”
Recchia, a Democrat, said that Grimm’s behavior was “completely unacceptable, and unbefitting of a United States congressman” and that “using threats of physical violence to intimidate the press from doing their jobs is against everything our country, and our government, stands for, and is a shameful abuse of power.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio also put out a statement about Grimm's actions, calling them "absolutely inappropriate. We’re going to have moments, between all of us in public life and all of you who do your job, where we have disagreements or tensions. But it’s absolutely inappropriate for it to be expressed in that manner. There has to be mutual respect even when your questions are tough, your job is to ask tough questions. But to physically threaten someone? That’s something that no public servant should do."
In their original encounter, which took place in the Capitol following President Obama’s State of the Union Address, Grimm (R-C-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Staten Island) was shown cutting off Scotto and walking away after the reporter asked the congressman about a probe into alleged campaign finance improprieties. Scotto had first asked about Grimm’s reaction to the State of the Union Address and had then tried to inquire about the investigation. During the first part of the interview, Grimm stated that he believed the president’s speech was divisive.
Grimm (R-C-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Staten Island) was shown cutting off Scotto and walking away after Scotto asked the congressman about a probe into alleged campaign finance improprieties. Scotto had first asked about Grimm’s reaction to President Obama’s State of the Union Address and had then tried to inquire about the investigation. During the first part of the interview, Grimm stated that he believed the president’s speech was divisive.
NY1 also posted the video on its website, and Grimm’s angry outburst bounced all over the Internet on Wednesday morning.
There is an ongoing investigation into fundraising efforts that took place during Grimm’s 2010 campaign for congress. The New York Times reported that the FBI arrested Diana K. Durand, a fundraiser for Grimm, earlier this month and charged her with illegally funneling more than $10,000 into his campaign. Grimm is also facing an ongoing federal investigation into accusations that his campaign illegally solicited money from foreign donors.
Grimm himself has not been charged with any wrongdoing in connection with the investigation.
"I'm not speaking to you off-topic, this is only about the president," Grimm is shown telling Scotto. The lawmaker then walked away from the reporter.
When Scotto was wrapping up his report, he stated that Grimm did not want to address “some of the allegations concerning his campaign finances.”
That’s when Grimm apparently exploded. The congressman, who is an ex-FBI agent and a U.S. Marine, walked back over to Scotto and in an exchange that was captured on camera, threatened to throw him off the balcony.
"Let me be clear to you, you ever do that to me again I'll throw you off this f-----g balcony," Grimm is shown telling Scotto.
Scotto is shown telling Grimm that the question about the campaign finance investigation is a valid one.
On Tuesday night, Grimm released a statement defending his actions and accusing Scotto of taking a cheap shot at him.
"I was extremely annoyed because I 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,” Grimm stated. “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. 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."
NY1 Political Director Bob Hardt released a statement of his own Tuesday night demanding an apology from Grimm.
"It is extremely disturbing when anyone threatens one of our reporters – let alone a US 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," Hardt stated.