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Networks Ignore GOP Response to SOTU, But Publicize GOP Congressman Threatening a Reporter

On Wednesday evening's newscasts, the networks all hyped GOP congressman Michael Grimm (N.Y.) threatening a reporter after Tuesday's State of the Union address while skipping the Republican response to the address entirely.

Of Grimm's outburst, ABC's Jeff Zeleny quipped, "It was not the State of the Union response Republicans had in mind." It was the response that the networks chose to cover, though. "Later, there was a far less dignified moment with a congressman from Staten Island, New York," CBS anchor Scott Pelley introduced the story.

There were two Republican responses to the State of the Union address, as well as a Tea Party response and a libertarian response, but none of them received any coverage on Wednesday.

Instead, NBC's Kelly O'Donnell touted the "stunning turn" that Grimm's interview took. ABC provided a tabloid-like tint to its report, with Jeff Zeleny narrating "How's that? The congressman threatening to throw the reporter off the balcony. And it gets worse," after ABC rewound Grimm's outburst.

Below is a transcript of the segments:

NBC
NIGHTLY NEWS
1/29/14
[7:10 p.m. EST]

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Shortly after the President's address last night, members of Congress quickly made their way to television cameras to respond to what they've just heard. But one of those interviews with member of Congress from New York ended with the congressman threatening a television reporter. We get the story from our Capitol Hill correspondent, Kelly O'Donnell.

KELLY O'DONNELL, NBC News Capitol Hill correspondent: On a night when hundreds of members of Congress run through a media circuit of interviews, one exchange on the cable channel New York 1 –

Rep. MICHAEL GRIMM (R-N.Y.): I'm not speaking about anything that's off-topic. This is only about the President's –

MICHAEL SCOTTO, NY1 reporter: What about –

O'DONNELL: – took a stunning turn.

SCOTTO: All right, so Congressman Michael Grimm does not want to talk about some of the allegations concerning his campaign finances. We wanted to get him on camera on that, but he, as you saw, refused to talk about that. Back to you.

O'DONNELL: Reporter Michael Scotto's eyes widened as the Republican congressman from Staten Island physically charged and threatened him, with language right out of a movie script.

GRIMM: No, no. You're not man enough. You are not man enough. I'll break you in half. Like a boy.

O'DONNELL: In his expletive-filled rant, Congressman Grimm claimed he'd throw the reporter off this two-story balcony. Grimm is 43 years old, a former Marine and FBI agent elected in 2010. His first response after the incident was a late-night statement saying he was extremely annoyed by the reporter's question. But no apology. When I confronted him this morning off the House floor and onto an elevator, Grimm was apologetic.

(On camera) Do you regret what took place?

GRIMM: Oh, of course. You know – I'm a human being.

Basement. Thank you.

Thank you.

I'm a human being, and sometimes your emotions get the better of you. And the bottom line, though, is it shouldn't happen, you shouldn't lose your cool. And that's why I apologized.

O'DONNELL: Grimm has been under federal investigation for campaign finance violations. This month, the FBI arrested a friend of the congressman on charges she illegally funneled donations to his campaign. Grimm's attorney says the congressman denies any wrong doing, and looks forward to an early and favorable resolution.

Will you speak to the ethical issues, though? Will you give a more full statement about where that stands?

GRIMM: I think I have done that for the last two years, and when they're done with their investigation that's where we'll be.

O'DONNELL: The reporter, Michael Scotto, told me he accepts the congressman's apology. I checked with leaders in both parties who say right now there is no plan to reprimand Grimm under the House rules of conduct. Speaker Boehner's office said that apology was appropriate. Brian?

ABC
WORLD NEWS
1/29/14
[6:37 p.m. EST]

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And there is another story from the Capitol making headlines today. Right after the President's speech, a member of Congress lost his cool, threatened to kill a journalist. Unlucky for him, it was all caught on camera. Today the Congressman's apologizing, and ABC's Jeff Zeleny looks at whether that's too little too late.

Rep. MICHAEL GRIMM (R-N.Y.): I really do have to go back to work for –  

JEFF ZELENY, ABC News senior Washington correspondent: Today, New York congressman Michael Grimm was a model of contrition.

GRIMM: I was wrong. It shouldn't have happened.

ZELENY: We saw a very different side of the congressman last night, when he walked away after a reporter asked about an investigation against him.

MICHAEL SCOTTO, NY1 reporter: We wanted to get him on camera on that, but he, as you saw, refused to talk about that. Back to you.

ZELENY: Watch as the congressman returns.

SCOTTO: Why –

GRIMM: Let me be clear to you. You ever do that to me again, and I'll throw you off this f—ing balcony.

SCOTTO: Why? I just want to ask you –

ZELENY: How's that? The congressman threatening to throw the reporter off the balcony. And it gets worse.

GRIMM: No, no. You're not man enough. You are not man enough. I'll break you in half. Like a boy.

ZELENY: Yes, that's right, a congressman saying "I'll break you in half like a boy." Congressman Grimm was elected during the Tea Party wave of 2010. A retired Marine and former FBI agent, he's now under investigation by the FBI himself, to determine whether he solicited illegal campaign contributions. And that's what the reporter was trying to ask the congressman when he stormed off. On Capitol Hill, the story played out all day long, with one apology after another.

GRIMM: I'm sure my Italian mother is going to be yelling at me saying you weren't raised that way, and she's right.

ZELENY: It was not the State of the Union response Republicans had in mind. Jeff Zeleny, ABC News, the Capitol.

CBS
EVENING NEWS
1/29/14
6:41 p.m. EST

SCOTT PELLEY: Later, there was a far less dignified moment with a congressman from Staten Island, New York. In an interview, Republican Michael Grimm declined to answer questions about an investigation into possible finance violations by his campaign. He walked away but then he came back.

(Video Clip)

Rep. MICHAEL GRIMM (R-N.Y.): Let me be clear to you. If you ever do that to me again, I'll throw you off this (bleep) balcony.

MICHAEL SCOTTO, reporter: Why? Why? I just wanted to ask you.

GRIMM: If you ever do that to me again –

(End Video Clip)

PELLEY: Congressman Grimm also told reporter Michael Scotto, quote, "I'll break you in half like a boy." Today, Grimm apologized, saying he should haven't lost his cool.

— Matt Hadro is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Matt Hadro on Twitter.