Rep. Michael Grimm (R., Staten Island) apparently wanted to unwind after the State of the Union with a little good-old-fashioned Reporter tossing from the Capitol Rotunda. A traditional form of exercise, RT (as it is called) is highly aerobic and involves throwing an adult reporter from a stationary position with no more than three paces before the launch. This is much more difficult than tossing the caber in Scottish game because the journalists tend to be odd sized and flexible. They are the second least aerodynamic of profession (after Sumo wrestlers). There is also the problem of congressional ethics rules and criminal assault concerns. However, if Grimm looked in ill-humor, it was nothing like the mood of voters.
Grimm had given an interview to NY1 political reporter Michael Scotto where he called the President’s speech “divisive.” Scotto however was going to end the interview with a question about an ongoing federal investigation into his 2010 campaign fundraising. The Justice Department has charged 47-year-old Diana Durand with using straw donors to exceed the maximum allowable contribution to Grimm’s campaign committee. Frankly it is not a huge amount and I am not sure why Grimm could not handle the question. She allegedly offered to reimburse four friends if they contributed to the campaign because she has maxed out on individual contributions.
Grimm’s reaction was . . . well . . . grim:
After the end of the segment, the camera continues to run and Grimm returns for this exchange:
“What?” Scotto responded. “I just wanted to ask you…”
Grimm: “Let me be clear to you, you ever do that to me again I’ll throw you off this f—–g balcony.”
Scotto: “Why? I just wanted to ask you…”
Grimm: “If you ever do that to me again…”
Scotto: “Why? Why? It’s a valid question.”
Grimm: “No, no, you’re not man enough, you’re not man enough. I’ll break you in half. Like a boy.”
Grimm released a statement following the incident.
“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.”
Frankly, despite the slightly menacing approach, I do not believe that this was an actual threat that would be the basis for any criminal charge. However, there is the question of House ethics rules. The very first rule of the House is that members mush “Conduct themselves at all times in a manner that reflects creditably on the
House.” Threatening to throw reporters from great heights is probably not in accordance with the spirit of that rule.
On the speech itself, I watched it with my kids. I do not think much of State of the Union addresses which are increasingly well-orchestrated photo ops with little true content. As in the past, I was most struck by how out of touch all of these politicians seems, including the President. Democrats had almost Stepford Wife faces of glee and adoration at the President. Republicans carefully managed their applauding so not to appear too supportive or too oppositional. However, that chamber left the appearance of hundreds of people secure in some highly ornate political bunker — entirely unconnected to the anger and disgust of most voters. The day of the speech, the result of a new major poll showed that over half of Americans disapprove of the president’s job performance. Likewise, nearly six in 10 say they are uncertain, worried or pessimistic about what he will do with the remainder of his presidency. Congress showed the same dismal approval rates. Yet, there they were. Smiling and ecstatic in a communal celebration of the monopoly power exercised by their two parties on this country. It was truly otherworldly.