By now, you’ve read about or seen the assault on NY1 reporter Michael Scotto by Staten Island Congressman Michael Grimm. As it turns out, it was all anybody talked about in the aftermath of the State of the Union address Tuesday night, and as such, forced the GOP to go off message to defend one of their own.
They can’t be happy about that in an election year.
Grimm, a former Marine and FBI agent, was asked for face time on camera to comment about the President’s address. Scotto, seizing an opportunity as any good reporter would, switched gears and tried to get Grimm to comment on camera about allegations that his first Congressional campaign was based in large part on campaign contributions that were made illegally (to-wit, from foreign sources and some domestic sources that contributed more than the legal maximum through some shady deals with third parties.) Grimm was genuinely surprised by the question, since his initial reaction, to walk away, was probably the best reflex he could have had, but his “second thought” was what got him in trouble, assaulting the reporter by physically looming over him and threatening to “throw you off the fucking balcony” of the Capitol building.
Not content with thuggishly menacing a man half his size, Grimm then walked away muttering that he’d break him in half, like the boy that he is.
The county GOP is trying to get behind Grimm while distancing themselves from him, but here’s the most interesting reaction:
Not everyone agrees that the incident will seriously undermine the congressman’s reelection bid. Coming nearly nine months ahead of the election, they argue, few voters will remember it by the time they head to the polls. And some Republicans say Grimm’s tough-guy image could be an asset in a New York City district where voters are more likely to reward brashness.
“I don’t think [voters] would take a lot of umbrage over him roughing it up with a reporter a little bit,” said David Catalfamo, a former top aide to onetime GOP Gov. George Pataki.
“Boys will be boys!” seems to be the reaction from the Pataki machine, one of the more formidable elements of a completely emasculated New York GOP. For instance, Grimm is the only Republican representing New York City in Congress.
Catalfamo was a member of Pataki’s administration, which means he has ties to Senator Alphonse D’Amato, the former kingmaker of New York politics. Indeed, Catafalmo now works under D’Amato…and there’s a nauseating image.
Here’s the problem: Yes, New Yorkers like their politics with bare knuckles, to be sure – hell, D’Amato often took a plurality of liberal votes from Long Island – and yes, Grimm was elected because a) he had a flood of campaign money come in that no one had counted on, and b) the residents of his district skew more conservative than the rest of the city, but note that last throw away line he puts out there: “No, no, you're not man enough, you're not man enough. I'll break you in half. Like a boy.”
In other words, Grimm acknowledges that he bullied a little boy. I don’t see how that message gets smoothed over, even in Staten Island.