Am I the Only One Who Thinks Calling Chris Cuomo “Fredo” Was Wrong?

I have to begin by stating that my ancestry is half-Italian. In today’s world, it seems that without such a qualifier, one cannot speak about matters involving a societal sub-group, unless one’s membership in said group is established. I don’t even necessarily agree with this current trend, but that’s my disclaimer, supposedly permitting me to speak on this matter. Let me make another disclaimer: I dislike CNN, and I have no affinity for our Governor, either.

Before Chris Cuomo’s outburst, I didn’t even know who he was. A relative of the Governor? News to me. Seriously. TV and me are not the closest of friends. Either way, I cannot defend Chris Cuomo’s crass and vulgar response.


Chris Cuomo
Image Credit: Azi Paybarah

However, I do agree that it isn’t right to call Mr. Cuomo “Fredo.” Neither was Cuomo’s histrionic outburst, but that’s for his therapist to deal with, not me; there’s a plush couch in a cozy Manhattan office for that. In this opinion piece, I’m dealing strictly with the “ethnic slur.” The reporter’s response is well beyond territory I wish to approach.

Now, is “Fredo” even an ethnic slur, as Cuomo claims? What about if someone had called him a “Don?,” as some laudatory sidelong praise of how he “takes over” interviews? (As I’ve never seen him interacting with ANYone, save the man calling him Fredo, I have no idea if this could ever even be true!) Or, told him he commands others like “The Godfather?” Is it strictly because the character Fredo in the Godfather movie is a weakling, a dimwitted Judas?

Really, Italian-Americans, of any political persuasion, should not have to be compared to fictional mob characters from a worn-out movie meme. Am I alone in my thinking? Actually, no. Most Italian-Americans I’ve spoken with this week feel the same way. Not a single real-life person I know wishes to be compared in such ways. Strangely, those interviewed by major periodicals seem to differ in their views. Perhaps, this is because they are talking with people outside their culture?

There’s more to our Italian-American culture than mob-movie memes. True, Chris Cuomo lived up to the stereotype, embarrassing us Italian-Americans in the process with his angry, violence-soaked response, but still, no one I spoke with relishes being referenced in this manner. Now, of course, the dude was trolled. Big time. But he did have a point. Maybe the point would have been better taken without the expletives and threats of throwing anyone down the stairs? Cuomo was only inches from growling that he’ll have the guy wearing concrete shoes! But, I digress….

I think of my Jewish family members, and know they wouldn’t want to be called “Bloomberg” because of their personal success and business acumen, or even “Barbra Streisand” because they sing like a diva. (Einstein is OK. But we don’t think of Einstein as a Jew first, but rather as the example of genius. And, no one cares about being referred to as a genius.) But, there’s something just…wrong…in referring to someone using an ethnic name, either a fictional character or a real-life, celebrated person.

What about calling an African-American runner a “regular Jesse Owens” because he runs fast? I mean, comparing a person to a four-time Olympic Gold Medalist, probably the most noted track and field competitor in history, may seem OK, but it reeks of bias. There’s some implicit stereotyping involved. But what about referring to a fast white guy as Jesse Owens? Is that OK? This all raises lots of questions.

And, is it alright for a Black person to use this name reference for another African-American who runs like lightning? The way our culture is, and possibly all cultures are, and always have been, someone of the same group instantly gets a pass in doing so. It’s a way of owning one’s heritage, of linking the achievements of an individual to a legendary person from our shared cultural vault of ideas.

And, saying that Chris Cuomo once called himself Fredo is only a half-truth. Curtis Sliwa, founder the Guardian Angels, and more lately an AM radio talk show host on WABC in NYC, was joking with Cuomo about his political family, likening them all to characters from Mario Puzo’s story. Cuomo played along. But that’s different. Why? It was done in jest, just as Mel Brooks’ character Rabbi Tuckman in his critically-acclaimed comedy “Robin Hood: Men In Tights” plays with memes and stereotypical images. It’s just not the same.

In conclusion, I guess it’s really how someone says something. If you’re joking, it’s OK to joke about your own ethnic group. If you’re joking or not, it’s never OK to make any references, as an outsider.  That is, unless you’re paying a compliment…and not an underhanded one, at that. I do suspect that if Cuomo was, instead, called the “Don of all Dons when it came to interviews,” he would have instead been shaking the man’s hand and laughing, instead of launching into a questionable tirade, in front of his kid, no less.

Let this teach us all something: No one wants to be called names – unless it’s done in the service of jest. Or compliment.


Author: Joey Caputo


  • Avatar FightCrime says:

    D E F I N I T E






  • What’s up Joey? Sick that you have a column now, bro!

    I read this three times. You’re one smart guy, let me tell you. Don’t let the negativity get to you. I’m sure there are going to be comments all over the place saying your not right. But you are.

    This disgraziato calls an elected official an ethnic slur and everyone agrees. They pull people out of the woodwork to agree. Not a single person I know agrees. Most think Coumo was right and think he didn’t react strong enough. Not me. I am tired of seeing people act like wannabe gangsters. So either way its not right.

    Just wanted to say what’s up, Joey.

    Forza Italiana!

  • Avatar someone you wish u were says:

    “Joey” Caputo, what would you do if I called you Fredo to your face?

    Because I’m calling you Fredo right now.

    What are u gonna do about it? Give me a lecture on why it is wrong?

    Bicciuridu you’d do nothing. Chepreca! Shameful that u think like this.

    Gaguzz’ head u have a lot to learn about life. Write about whats important. Murudda! Your idiotic.

    • Avatar StatenIslander.org_Editor says:

      Trolling at it’s best.

      Interesting command of Italian-American slang.

      I think you’ve taught us all a phrase or two. However, I think your point isn’t quite clear. Are you suggesting it’s OK to get angry and threaten violence, or it’s OK to call an Italian-American “Fredo?” You need to work on clarity; you don’t get the message across so well. Ask yourself: What is it I’m trying to say? Re-read what you’ve commented, and see if someone else might understand.

  • Avatar Liberals Control Patrol says:

    Ahh The liberals are out again in full force defending one of their own! How predictably typical!

    Joey, give it a rest. Chris Cuomo is a fool. Defending a fool only makes you look foolish.

    You write well. Why not write about something that matters?

    Face it, people don’t care about you liberals and it only makes all of you look worse crying for mommy every time anyone opens their mouth.

    What happened to liberals being the ones pushing for free speech?

  • Avatar matty c says:

    Chris Cuomo is Fredo.

    “I’m smart. Look at me.”

    Sounds the same to my ears.

  • […] It’s all about context. If I call my Italian friend “gumba” or “paisan,” it’s not the same as someone calling him that after cutting him off in traffic. I doubt there’s any situation where he’d relish being called “Fredo,” however. Chris Cuomo was right. That was just a “dis,” one laden with biased overtones. (See our article on this topic: Am I the Only One Who Thinks Calling Chris Cuomo “Fredo” Was Wrong?) […]

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