US congressman threatens TV reporter
‘I'll break you in half', New York Republican representative Michael Grimm confronts journalist on camera after interview.PT0M49S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-31nk0 620 349 January 30, 2014
Washington: While testy exchanges between politicians and journalists are fairly routine, the behaviour of one congressional lawmaker following President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night was unusually vitriolic, as he exploded in anger and threatened to throw a television reporter off a balcony for asking an unwelcome question.
The lawmaker, Representative Michael G. Grimm, a Republican from Staten Island who is the subject of a federal investigation related to his fund-raising efforts, became enraged after the television reporter, Michael Scotto of NY1, asked him about the investigation.
Mr Grimm’s threats inside the United States Capitol were captured on video that quickly rocketed around the internet.
Mr Grimm stormed off when Mr Scotto raised the subject of the investigation into his campaign finances but then charged back and laced into Mr Scotto.
Although Mr Scotto had finished the segment, the camera continued to roll and Mr Grimm can be seen getting directly in the face of an obviously stunned Mr Scotto.
“What?” Mr Scotto said. Before he could explain that he was just trying to ask him a question, Mr. Grimm became unhinged.
“Let me be clear to you,” he said in a low voice, before using a profanity and warning that he would hurl Mr Scotto from the balcony.
There is some cross talk between the two men which was not audible on the video before Mr Grimm concluded with an insult and another threat.
“No, no, you’re not man enough, you’re not man enough,” he said. “I’ll break you in half. Like a boy.”
On Thursday morning, Mr Scotto said that Mr Grimm had telephoned him to apologise for his outburst.
Initially, however, Mr Grimm sought to justify his behaviour and did not apologise.
“I was extremely annoyed because I was doing NY1 a favour by rushing to do their interview first in lieu of several other requests,” he wrote in a statement on Wednesday night. “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 favour,” he wrote. “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.”
Mr Grimm’s actions were quickly picked up by the national media, and Mr Scotto appeared on several cable networks on Wednesday morning to talk about what had happened.
“I don’t believe the substance of the threat at all,” he said on CNN. “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.”
This month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested Diana K. Durand, a fund-raiser for Mr Grimm, on charges that she illegally funneled more than $10,000 into his campaign. Mr Grimm has also faced a continuing federal investigation into accusations that he or his campaign illegally solicited money from foreign donors.
Mr Grimm, who was first elected to Congress in 2010, was considered something of a rising star within the party.
A former Marine, he often uses his military service to push back at criticism.
In 2010, when his Republican primary opponent Michael Allegretti accused him of wearing Army combat ribbons he did not earn, Mr Grimm showed a flash of temper.
“You sleep under a blanket of freedom that I helped provide. You should just say, ‘Thank you,'” he said. “What I’ve done in my life, you see in the movies.”
Mr Grimm’s response, however, raised some eyebrows because it is very similar to the lines spoken by Jack Nicholson in the movie A Few Good Men.
After serving in the first gulf war in 1991, he worked 11 years as an agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, going undercover on Wall Street to put white-collar criminals behind bars.
He is an avid weight lifter who earned the nickname Mikey Suits for his often flashy style.
He represents a swing district that includes Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, yet he is comfortable working with more conservative Republicans.
Mayor Bill de Blasio called Mr Grimm’s behaviour “absolutely inappropriate” and said Republican leaders should condemn it.
“We are going to have moments, between all of us in public life, and all of you who do your job, where we have disagreements and tensions,” he said at a news conference on Wednesday morning. “But it’s absolutely inappropriate to be expressed in that manner.”
Calling Mr Grimm’s behaviour “unacceptable,” NY1’s political director, Bob Hardt, demanded a full apology from the lawmaker.
“It is extremely disturbing when anyone threatens one of our reporters — let alone a US Congressman,” Mr. Hardt said in a series of messages on Twitter.
Mr. Hardt, in a posting on NY1’s website, wrote that this was not the first time Mr Grimm had gotten into a heated confrontation with a reporter for the station.
“Following an interview with NY1’s Errol Louis in December of 2012, the congressman blew his top – off-camera,” Mr. Hardt wrote.
“After the interview,” he wrote, “Grimm became red-faced and started yelling at both Louis and me, alluding to settling the issue by ‘taking it outside’ with our political anchor – acting as if he were in a bar instead of a TV studio.”
The New York Times