Brooklyn Congressman Who Threatened NY1 Reporter Has History of Threatening Reporters

michael grimm state of the union balcony

Congressmember Michael Grimm, a Republican who represents Staten Island and a piece of southwestern Brooklyn, appeared on NY1 last night to discuss the president’s State of the Union address. When reporter Michael Scotto tried to end the interview by asking the congressmember about the federal investigation into his fundraising—just two weeks ago, the FBI arrested a woman accused of using straw donors to funnel money into his 2010 reelection campaign—he quickly responded, “I’m not speaking about anything that’s off-topic,” and walked away. But then, before the on-location report moved back to the studio, Grimm stormed back into frame, visibly alarming Scotto, and told him, “Let me be clear to you: you ever do that to me again, I’ll throw you off this fucking balcony.” After some back and forth, in which the reporter protested about the validity of the question, Grimm answered, “No, no, you’re not man enough, you’re not man enough. I’ll break you in half. Like a boy.”

Grimm later issued a statement that was very much not an apology. “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,” he wrote, according to the New York Times. “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.” (Grimm later did call Scotto to apologize.) But it’s also not the first time Grimm has “told off” a reporter. At the Bensonhurst Bean, Ned Berke relates this story from April 2012:

We stepped out of the  Harway Terrace Community Room and into the empty hallway. Just as I began to speak, Grimm spun on his heel, turned to me and shoved his face in mine. He began shouting, spittle raining down on me, and jutting his index finger into my chest. Quite frankly, it happened fast, and I don’t remember much of what he was shouting, other than I should have called his office for comment. I tried explaining [our article about his fundraising troubles] was an aggregated report—and that I’m asking him for comment now. He kept shouting. One of his goons was stooped over behind him, face next to Grimm’s, nodding along.

And this morning, another NY1 reporter came forward to report a similar story: in December 2012, following a similar question from Errol Louis (and after the cameras were off), “Grimm became red-faced and started yelling at both Louis and [Bob Hardt], 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.”

Though we know Grimm’s barroom behavior tends more toward the amorous: last year, we broke the story that he went to a Bay Ridge bar in his district “with two couples and a woman in whose back pocket he repeatedly placed his hand, and whose ass he slapped more than once… The three couples also each slipped in turn into the bar’s only restroom, including the congressman and his female companion, who stayed in there together for ‘a long fucking time,’ one witness said—15 minutes or more, so long that people at the bar were talking about it.”

This wasn’t this the first story of Grimm, a former Marine and FBI agent, engaging in inappropriate behavior. The ultimate Grimm anecdote, whose veracity he has denied, still comes from a 2011 New Yorker article:

On July 10, 1999, Williams said, he was working off duty at Caribbean Tropics. Shortly after midnight, Michael Grimm walked in with a woman of Caribbean descent. The woman’s estranged husband, who is also of Caribbean descent, was at the club and confronted Grimm. The two men began to argue. Williams escorted Grimm away. Williams recalled, “He said to me, ‘Thanks a lot man, he don’t know who he’s fucking with.’ Then he said something frightening. ‘I’ll fuckin’ make him disappear where nobody will find him.’ ” (Grimm calls this allegation “insane.”) After that, Williams said, Grimm and the woman left, as did the husband.

Around 2:30 a.m., there was a commotion on the dance floor. According to Williams, somebody was shouting, “He’s got a gun!” Following a crowd into the club’s garage, Williams discovered that Grimm and the husband had returned, and Grimm was holding a weapon. Grimm was “carrying on like a madman,” Williams said. “He’s screaming, ‘I’m gonna fuckin’ kill him.’ So I said to him, ‘Who are you?’ He put the gun back in his waist and said, ‘I’m a fucking F.B.I. agent, ain’t nobody gonna threaten me.’ ” (Grimm said he only moved his gun from an ankle holster to his waistband.) […]

Grimm left the club, but at 4 a.m., just before the club closed, he returned again, according to Williams, this time with another F.B.I. agent and a group of N.Y.P.D. officers. Grimm had told the police that he had been assaulted by the estranged husband and his friends. Williams said that Grimm took command of the scene, and refused to let the remaining patrons and employees leave. “Everybody get up against the fucking wall,” Williams recalled him saying. “The F.B.I. is in control.” Then Grimm, who apparently wanted to find the man with whom he’d had the original altercation, said something that Williams said he’ll never forget: “All the white people get out of here.”

I discussed this anecdote once with a Democratic operative in Brooklyn, who told me when he’d first heard it he thought that Grimm’s political career was finished. But he soon talked to a a colleague across the Narrows who said that many of Grimm’s Staten Island constituents were eating the story up. Presumably, they might also enjoy a story in which Grimm threatens some twerp who dares ask him about his ongoing fundraising scandal, which has repeatedly landed him on the list of most corrupt congressmembers and has sparked both Justice Department and internal congressional investigations, not to mention an actual arrest. As long as he doesn’t get caught drunk driving on his way to visit his secret family, Grimm’s political future might actually be just fine.

Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart

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