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Rep. Michael Grimm apologizes for threats; reporter won't press charges

Michael GrimmPoliticsU.S. CongressState of the Union AddressStaten Island (New York City)FBIMSNBC (tv network)

WASHINGTON -- A reporter who was physically threatened by a member of Congress while conducting an interview after Tuesday night's State of the Union address says he has no plans to press charges.

Michael Scotto, a reporter for the NY1 channel, was interviewing Rep. Michael Grimm, a Republican who represents Staten Island and other parts of New York City. After asking about Grimm’s reactions to President Obama’s speech, he tried to ask the second-term congressman about allegations of campaign-finance violations involving his election in 2010.

Grimm refused to answer, walked away, and then, as the camera continued to record the scene, returned to confront the reporter.

"If you ever do that to me again, I'll throw you off this ... balcony," Grimm can be heard saying, as he stood next to a railing. After a back-and-forth, Grimm added: "You're not man enough. I'll break you in half. Like a boy."

Videotape of the incident went viral Tuesday night.

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In an interview Wednesday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Scotto said Grimm "did seem angry."

"He seemed angrier than I had ever seen a politician talk to a reporter about a question that he or she didn't like,” he said. “I think the tape speaks for itself, so I'm just going to leave it as is."

"I'm used to people giving me push-back for questions. I was not used to something like that," Scotto said.

In a statement issued quickly after the video of the confrontation went viral, Grimm, a former FBI special agent and Marine, said the reporter knew that he was in a hurry and that he was only going to speak about the State of the Union. He said Scotto was taking "a disrespectful and cheap shot."

"I verbally took the reporter to task and told him off, because I expect a certain level of professionalism and respect," Grimm said in the statement. "I doubt that I am the first member of Congress to tell off a reporter, and I'm sure I won't be the last."

[Updated, 8:41 a.m. PST Jan. 29: On Wednesday, NY1 reported that Grimm had called to apologize for his conduct, saying he "overreacted."

Scotto said he accepted Grimm's apology and that he believed it was sincere.]

@repmichaelgrimm called to apologize. He said he "overreacted." I accepted his apology.

— Michael Scotto (@mikescotto) January 29, 2014

The New York Daily News raised questions last week about whether Grimm's campaign engaged in "donor swapping" -- in which a candidate's supporters donate money to other campaigns, who in return themselves donate to the original candidate, in order to skirt limits on individual contributions.

Grimm is already the subject of a federal probe for other campaign irregularities, the paper reported.

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michael.memoli@latimes.com

Twitter: @mikememoli

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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