I’m completely serious. Have you seen the clip? In it, a NY1 reporter named Michael Scotto was interviewing Rep. Michael Grimm R-New York about the State of the Union Address in the Capitol Building. Near the end of the interview, Scotto tried to ask Grimm about Justice Department allegations that Grimm engaged in illegal fundraising during his 2010 campaign. Grimm cut off the question before Scotto could get it out, saying that he would not discuss anything off topic. Grimm abruptly walked off at that point.
And Grimm had every right to do that. If he agreed to do the interview with limitations, he can certainly refuse to answer and end the interview at that point.
But it didn’t end there. As Scotto was signing off, Grimm walked up to him, got right in his face and said in a menacing tone, "Let me be clear to you: If you ever do that to me again, I'll throw you off this f***ing balcony." Grimm, who is about twice the size of Scotto went on to say that he would “break you in half, like a boy.”
And Grimm is completely unrepentant. Here is the statement he issued: “I was extremely annoyed because I was doing NY1 a favor by rushing to do their interview first in lieu of several other requests. 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 favor. 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.”
Again, if Grimm was annoyed, he had every right to refuse to answer and walk off the interview. He even could have told the reporter why he was annoyed. But threatening to throw someone off a balcony and/or break them in half isn’t “telling someone off” – it’s assault. And Grimm’s “everybody does it” justification is appalling.
Here is Section 22-404 of the Washington, D.C. Criminal Code:
§ 22-404. Assault or threatened assault in a menacing manner; stalking
(a) (1) Whoever unlawfully assaults, or threatens another in a menacing manner, shall be fined not more than the amount set forth in § 22-3571.01 or be imprisoned not more than 180 days, or both.
Can someone please tell me how Grimm did not blatantly violate that section? And the prosecutors would have the video at their disposal. And isn’t Grimm’s offense even worse given his position of authority and given his apparent intent to frustrate a reporter’s effort merely to exercise his First Amendment rights?
We have heard so much talk over the past few years about bullying – online and otherwise. Wouldn’t it send a powerful message that we don’t tolerate this behavior if Grimm were charged? Especially since it is clear that he committed the crime?
Trey Radel, like me a native of Cincinnati’s West side, recently resigned from Congress in the wake of his arrest for buying cocaine. And that is appropriate. But Radel didn’t abuse his authority. Radel didn’t pick on someone half his size. And Radel didn’t attack the First Amendment. Grimm did all of that. Congress would be better off without him. I’m serious. Charge him.