WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — Staten Island Rep. Michael Grimm said he was “wrong” for threatening a reporter with violence after Tuesday night’s State of the Union address.
The confrontation between Grimm and NY1 reporter Michael Scotto happened after Scotto asked Grimm about a federal probe into his 2010 campaign fundraising.
After cutting the reporter off, Grimm told Scotto, “You ever do that to me again I’ll throw you off this (expletive) balcony.” He also threatened to “break (Scotto) in half.”
Grimm issued a statement Wednesday saying he has apologized to Scotto, which he said the reporter “was very gracious” and accepted his apology.
“We are going to have lunch sometime next week just to make sure this is all behind us. The bottom line is sometimes I wear my emotions on my sleeve. I was wrong,” Grimm said. “I shouldn’t have allowed my emotions to get the better of me and lose my cool.”
Grimm also spoke outside his office in Washington earlier Wednesday morning.
“This was an unfortunate incident that shouldn’t have happened and I am sure my Italian mother is going to be yelling at me saying, ‘you weren’t raised that way,’ and she’s right,” said the congressman.
In a tweet, Scotto confirmed the congressman called to apologize.
@repmichaelgrimm called to apologize. He said he "overreacted." I accepted his apology.
— Michael Scotto (@mikescotto) January 29, 2014
Scotto said he was surprised at Grimm’s reaction Tuesday night, but did not feel it was a serious threat and wants to “move on.”
“It was a short conversation, we weren’t one on one, speaking face to face. But it seemed from what he was saying that he was sincere but also at the same time, he is aware of kind of the negative press that he’s been getting as a result of this,” Scotto told WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb on Wednesday.
Scotto added he never felt endangered by Grimm’s threats but said the congressman “was the angriest I have ever seen any politician.”
Grimm had issued an earlier statement after the incident in which he said he was “extremely annoyed” with Scotto and doubted he was the “first member of Congress to tell off a reporter.”
“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 said in the earlier statement. “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.”
Meanwhile, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday that House leadership should denounce Grimm’s actions, Lamb reported.
“You don’t threaten reporters physically,” said de Blasio. “It was a physical threat. It’s unacceptable and, look, I think all of us who go into public life accept a higher set of standards. It’s by definition. To threaten someone, that’s something that no public servant should do.”
The mayor said there has to be mutual respect between reporters and public officials even when members of the media ask tough questions.
Grimm is up for re-election this fall. His district stretches into Brooklyn and is considered a “swing” district. Grimm won two years ago with just 53 percent of the vote.
“This isn’t a show-stopper, doesn’t necessarily make it hard to retain re-election, but it does create a narrative line which he can’t want going into a campaign even if it’s a little bit close because it suggests he has a tendency to bully,” Baruch College pundit David Birdsell told CBS 2’s Dick Brennan.
As for possible discipline in this case, House Speaker John Boehner stood by Grimm, saying in a statement: “Rep. Grimm has apologized, and the speaker believes that was appropriate.”
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