Rep. Michael Grimm apologized Wednesday for threatening a television reporter a day earlier, but watchdog groups are still calling for the House ethics committee to investigate the New York Republican, arguing his behavior violated the chamber rules.
Mr. Grimm told reporters that “I lost my cool” when he physically and verbally threatened Michael Scotto, a reporter with NY1 who was interviewing the congressman after Tuesday’s State of the Union address.
“I was wrong. It shouldn’t have happened, and I’ve called Michael Scotto and he accepted my apology and we’re going to go to lunch and we’ll put it all behind us,” Mr. Grimm said. “I’m a human being, and sometimes your emotions get the better of you, and the bottom line, though, is it shouldn’t happen, you shouldn’t lose your cool and that’s why I apologized.”
After asking Mr. Grimm about President Obama’s speech, Mr. Scotto tried to ask about previous reports involving questions about the congressman’s campaign finances. Mr. Grimm walked off camera, but then could be seen on tape returning to berate Mr. Scotto.
“Let me be clear to you, you ever do that to me again I’ll throw you off this [expletive] balcony,” Mr. Grimm could be heard saying. “You’re not man enough, you’re not man enough. I’ll break you in half. Like a boy.”
Mr. Grimm had initially put out a statement late Tuesday saying that he was “extremely annoyed” because he was rushing to do the interview ahead of other requests and that he was only there to comment on the State of the Union.
“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 said. “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.”
On his Twitter account, Mr. Scotto said Mr. Grimm called and said he had “overreacted.”
“I accepted his apology,” the reporter said.
Despite that exchange, the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint against Mr. Grimm with the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE).
Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW, said Mr. Grimm’s conduct violates House Rule 23, “which requires all members of the House to conduct themselves ‘at all times in a manner that reflects creditably on the House.’”
“Rep. Grimm abused his position as a member of the House by publicly threatening with verbal and physical abuse a reporter who was exercising his First Amendment rights,” she wrote. “Rep. Grimm’s conduct was entirely unprovoked.”
Common Cause, another open-government advocacy group, likewise called for an ethics probe into the incident, saying it plans to ask the OCE whether Mr. Grimm violated House Rule 23.
“There are troubling signs that Congressman Grimm has violated both the letter and spirit of House rules,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause’s senior vice president for strategy and programs.
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