The Godfather Meets CNN: Lessons from the Chris Cuomo / ‘Fredo’ Outburst

Written by Steve Pauwels on August 16, 2019

While out and about with his wife and school-age daughter this past weekend, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo reportedly clashed with a heckler who approached him, referring to him as “Fredo”. “Fredo” you might recall, was the weak and incompetent Corleone brother portrayed in the Godfather films of the early 70s.

Understandably, the forty-nine-year-old journalist took exception — and video of his profane and antagonistic reaction went viral Monday, capturing the attention of media professionals and regular viewers alike.

Fox News provided an abbreviated chunk of the back-and-forth:

“No, punk-ass b—es from the right call me ‘Fredo.’ My name is Chris Cuomo. I’m an anchor on CNN. ‘Fredo’ was from ‘The Godfather.’ He was a weak brother and they use that as an Italian slur — are any of you Italian?… It’s a f—king insult to your people. It’s an insult to your f—kin’ people. It’s like the N-word for us. Is that a cool f—king thing?”

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Underscoring Ben Shapiro’s oft-repeated maxim that “Two things can be true at once” — although, in this instance, its many more than just two — there’s much to be gleaned from this dramatic and uncomfortable episode:

— The President is wrong on this one. Cuomo, admittedly, is one of the Cable News Network’s most vocal Trump nemeses, and his Oval Office target joined the pile-on, ridiculing Cuomo for his splenetic spectacle.

(h/t Daily Wire)

Conversely, conservatives like the aforementioned Shapiro are right to, at least guardedly, come to Cuomo’s defense in this matter: the “Fredo”-spouting tormentor was out of line. When it was Sarah Huckabee Sanders (the president’s former press secretary) or Sen. Ted Cruz being bustled out of a public location by obnoxious Leftists conservatives were properly outraged.

We can’t, then, run cover for a boorish Cuomo-critic who was essentially engaging in similar antics toward the CNN anchor — putatively in front of his wife and child, no less — just because the victim in this case is a member of the Left-listing Mainstream Media.

There’s a time for political debate, for ideological confrontation, even for rhetorical fireworks — there’s equally a time for leaving folks alone to enjoy a few companionable moments with their family. And there are right ways and wrong ways to do all of the above.

Cuomo-taunter fails on all counts in this caddish encounter.

— Cuomo is off track claiming “Fredo” is the equivalent of the “N-Word”, but leveled against Italian-Americans. His claim is a cheap and lazy — and almost certainly phony — retort.

As many others have observed, when Ana Navarro selected “Fredo” to slur no-less-than Donald Trump, Jr. back in January of this year — oh, yeah on Cuomo Prime Time (!) — the guy moderating that nightly program, the same one so theatrically indignant in this week’s omnipresent video, didn’t utter a chirp of objection. Why? Because, while the Godfather citation is incontestably an insult, it’s not an ethnic slur. Trump, Jr., far as I know, doesn’t even have a drop of Italian blood in him!

It so happens the media personality referred to himself as “Fredo” in a 2010 radio interview. Yeah, there’s that …

By the way, if “Fredo” is an “aspersion” toward Americans whose roots hale back to Bel Paese, then what demographic is being defamed when he calls his harasser a “b*tch”? Is that a general knock on the ladies?

A simple, “Sir, I am trying to enjoy an outing with my wife and daughter, please leave me alone” on Cuomo’s part would been less disingenuous; and, probably, more effective in shutting down the clod, to boot.

— In the fullest transcript of the — ahem — interaction which I could find (h/t Newsbusters), professional newsman Cuomo uncorks an f-bomb — sometimes more than a single one — in nearly every sentence he speaks; and sprinkles in other four-letter doozies for blue measure.

Did I mention his wife and little girl were supposedly standing nearby as this poured from his sewery yap? Is this how the paid television personality normally expresses himself when he’s out of sorts? What on earth does he sound like behind closed doors when he drops a dish or whacks his thumb with a hammer or can’t find the TV remote? Are the Cuomo ladies subjected to this kind of filthy fusillade on a daily? weekly? monthly? basis around hearth and home?

— — Furthermore, if one reads the transcript of the entire obscenity-ridden eructation, Cuomo’s jackhammering, nearly cartoonish, use of f-bombs makes him sound like a goon. Is he trying to imitate a street-smart tough guy? Or does he just lack self-control or command of anything beyond gutter level English in general? If this youngest of the Cuomo frères — oops, fratellos — takes exception to unflattering stereotypes of Italian-Americans, he really ought not throw fuel on them by talking like a wiseguy-thug.

— Let’s make space for a bit more honesty here: had a political or cultural conservative — particularly a member of the Evangelical Right — retorted to a harasser in a public setting, caught on video, with the level of profanity, invective and physical threats employed by Mr. Cuomo, the mainstream media would be having a field day; not sympathetic to him at all. Jubilant, really.

— The slovenliness of Cuomo’s response to his slovenly mocker only made a nasty situation worse; he behaved as basely as his base abuser — and was wise to admit it and apologize for it once his blood cooled and his head cleared a couple days later:

“Appreciate all the support but – truth is I should be better than the guys baiting me. This happens all the time these days. Often in front of my family. But there is a lesson: no need to add to the ugliness; I should be better than what I oppose,” he wrote. (Fox News)

Notwithstanding one’s feelings for Chris Cuomo, being “better than what we oppose” is an admirable life-credo to follow.

The “Fredo”-lobber now needs to do the same for his loutish conduct as Cuomo did for his. How refreshing would it be for our frazzled nation to see both sides admit their faults, shake hands and put this donnybrook behind them? Once in a great while, that kind of thing actually happens, right out in the open; but, candidly, not regularly enough; nowadays, particularly, not regularly enough.

Wise men learn from others’ good example and are instructed to avoid mistakes by their foolishness.

Cuomo and heckler provide onlookers grist for both.

Image: “Fredo Corleone”; Adapted from: Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21399954

Image: Chris Cuomo; By Senator Chris Coons – https://www.flickr.com/photos/senatorchriscoons/28608053950/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63993690

Steve Pauwels is pastor of Church of the King, Londonderry, NH and host of Striker Radio with Steve Pauwels on the Red State Talk Radio Network. He's also husband to the lovely Maureen and proud father of three fine sons: Mike, Sam and Jake.

 

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