Wednesday, January 29, 2014

US Representative Michael Grimm Issues Death Threat To Reporter. In The US Capitol. On Television.

Representative Michael Grimm, from his website.
Be wary if he asks you to meet him on the bridge in the background.

Representative Michael Grimm (R- NY) made headlines after the State of the Union speech last night. A reporter was about to ask him a question about a campaign finance investigation he is going through, when Representative Grimm stormed off camera. He came back seconds later and told the reporter he would throw him off the balcony and "break" him if the reporter ever did that again.

What would cause any person, let alone an elected official, to issue such a threat, which is most likely illegal, in the US Capitol building?

Chances are, Representative Grimm is under a lot of stress. Whether he did anything wrong or not, his campaign finances are being investigated. He is working in one of the most hostile Congresses the US has ever experienced. He just listened to the opposition party leader (aka President Obama) deliver a 70-minute speech on primetime television. All of that can add up to a good deal of anxiety and anger.

But, many people are stressed out and angry, and they do not threaten other people's lives. For Mr. Grimm, there must be more to the story. Maybe it is an impulse control problem. Maybe he grew up in circumstances where threats of physical violence seemed normal and appropriate. Maybe he is just a jerk.

The statement his office released explaining the incident is somewhat telling. He reported he was "extremely annoyed" that he would be asked a question that had nothing to do with the President's speech. He blamed the reporter, who he said "knew I was in a hurry...but insisted on taking a disrespectful and cheap shot at the end of the interview." He went on to say, "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."

His statement has many of the hallmarks of an angry individual who is prone to violence. He blamed the reporter for his angry outburst, taking the responsibility of the threat off of his shoulders. He also said he was trying to help the reporter and then minimized his threat (threatening to throw a reporter off a balcony is not verbally taking him to task--it is threatening to kill him).

Here is a video of Representative Grimm's comments:

click here if the video does not appear above.

As of the writing of this post, Representative Grimm has not made any more public comments on his threat from last night. I do not know if charges will be pressed, but I am certain this is not the last we will hear of the incident.

Thanks for reading-- Max Wachtel, Ph.D.

UPDATE (10:30am MST): 9 News political reporter Brandon Rittiman informed me that Representative Grimm has now apologized to the New York reporter he threatened. According to USA Today's On Politics blog, which was updated around 12pm EST, Mr. Grimm called the reporter this morning to apologize and issued a statement saying he was wrong.

The wording of his statement was interesting. He said, "I'm a human being and sometimes your emotions get the better of you...when you're wrong, you're wrong. You have to admit it and it shouldn't have happened."

Notice how he said he is a human being and your emotions get the better of you? Notice he said when you're wrong, you're wrong? You have to admit it?

On the surface, this sounds like a good apology, but when he switches from talking about himself being human to talking about you needing to admit you are wrong, he is distancing himself from his actions. He could have been talking about anyone at that point. A better, more heartfelt apology would have included the words, "When I'm wrong, I'm wrong. I have to admit it."

From a psychological perspective, I don't think he's quite willing to admit he did anything wrong yet.


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