It started out like dozens of other interviews after Tuesday night’s State of the Union address. But when NY1 reporter Mike Scotto decided to press Rep. Michael Grimm on his personal campaign finances, the Republican congressman abruptly ended the interview.
“This is only about the president’s speech, thank you,” Grimm said before walking off camera.
It’s certainly not the first time a politician has walked out during a live interview. But what happened next is shocking even to the most jaded observer.
After Stotto returned to his report, Rep. Grimm, a former FBI agent and Marine, suddenly stormed back into the camera frame, whispering a threat to the reporter.
"I will break you in half," he said, reportedly threatening to throw the journalist over a balcony inside the U.S. Congress.
Although the audio is largely muted, NY1 employees say that Grimm said, "Let me be clear to you, you ever do that to me again I'll throw you off this balcony.”
“I just wanted to ask you … it’s a valid question,” Stotto responded.
“No, no,” Grimm said. “You're not man enough, you're not man enough. I'll break you in half. Like a boy."
Grimm, first elected to office in the 2010 midterm elections, called Scotto Wednesday to apologize, saying he "overreacted." Scotto told NY1 he accepted the apology and believes it was sincere.
Grimm also released a written apology following the phone call:
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. In the weeks and months ahead I’ll be working hard for my constituents on issues like flood insurance that is so desperately needed in my district post Sandy.
But earlier, Grimm had released a statement claiming he was doing NY1 a favor.
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. 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 issued a statement of his own following the incident.
“The NY1 family is certainly alarmed and disappointed by the behavior of Representative Grimm and demands a full apology from him," Hardt said. “This behavior is unacceptable.”
Meanwhile Capital New York reports that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has already begun circulating copies of the video.