The actual trigger here was not the question that reporter Michael Scotto asked New York Rep. Michael Grimm after the State of the Union on Tuesday night. The question had to do with certain campaign-finance allegations that have been dogging Grimm lately; Grimm didn't want to answer it and walked away. The trigger was Scotto's decision to state the obvious—that Grimm didn't want to talk about the allegations—into the camera before Grimm was out of earshot.
Grimm returned and—with the camera still rolling about two feet away—basically threatened to kill the reporter (video at the link):
Scotto: What? 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.
Do boys break in half easily? Are they especially weak at the waist or something before they mature? I don't know of any evidence that Grimm has actually broken a boy in half, so I can only assume he was speaking about some property of boys in general that makes them easy to break into roughly equal pieces. This was news to me.
Grimm issued a written statement later that night, but it was in no way an apology:
I was extremely annoyed because I was doing NY1 a favor by rushing to do their interview first.... 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.
He probably is the first one to threaten to throw one off a f-----g balcony, though.
The next day, having thought better of this strategy, or maybe realizing the whole thing had been recorded, he decided to apologize after all:
I was wrong [he said in another statement]. I shouldn’t have allowed my emotions to get the better of me and lose my cool. I have apologized to Michael Scotto, which he graciously accepted, and will be scheduling a lunch soon. In the weeks and months ahead I’ll be working hard for my constituents [on an issue he hopes is more important to them than this].
Grimm had indeed called Scotto personally to apologize. The reporter said he had accepted the apology and thought it was sincere. Whether he is looking forward to lunch is another story.
According to David Freedlander, another reporter who is just askin' for it, Grimm is a "hothead with a shady past," a former Marine and FBI agent (not shady) who later "raised a boatload of money from people associated with a mystical rabbi who advised LeBron James and spent most of his time in Israel" (gettin' shadier). And the exchange "had a familiar ring" to Evan Ratliff, who wrote about Grimm in this 2011 New Yorker article. The article referred to allegations that after arguing with somebody at a nightclub in 1999, Grimm (then an FBI agent) pulled his gun on the man and threatened to kill him. Grimm left, but allegedly came back at 4 a.m. with other agents and officers and ordered everybody up against the wall. Well, not everybody: "All the white people get out of here," witnesses accused Grimm of saying. (The guy he was looking for was black.)
Did he threaten to kill anyone? Ratliff asked Grimm. "That's not my personality," Grimm replied, which is not the same as "no." He continued, "I don't need to speak that way. A guy with a gun who knows how to use it doesn't need to say anything." He probably didn't mean to say that his "personality" is to shoot without warning, but that's what he said.