CivMix, as you know, is not a political site. Though we don’t necessarily shy away from political stories, our focus is more on local news, the arts, happenings, etc.
That said, sometimes something occurs that gets everyone talking. It transcends politics – though some people would say that politics these days IS a form of entertainment – and becomes more of a water cooler talker sort of a thing.
That’s what happened last week when CNN host Chris Cuomo made headlines by flying off the handle when a man called him “Fredo” – a reference to the ineffective son of Vito Corleone in “The Godfather.”
In a profanity-laced tirade, Chris Cuomo said the name “Fredo” is as offensive to Italian Americans as the N-word is to African Americans.
CNN backed up the cable news host, saying he “defended himself when he was verbally attacked with the use of an ethnic slur in an orchestrated setup.” (The man who made the remark was an anonymous fan of right-wing website and blog “That’s the Point With Brandon” and later shared the video on Twitter and YouTube, where it went viral).
What followed was an avalanche of stories in response to the incident – some supporting Chris Cuomo, others disparaging him. Among those writing about the incident was Times Union managing editor Casey Seiler, who penned a column that ran yesterday “in praise of Fredo Corleone.”
Chris Cuomo’s older brother, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, had been silent on this incident. But he weighed in – and how – this morning during an interview with WAMC’s Alan Chartock, and though he did not say whether he thought his brother’s response had been appropriate, (Chris Cuomo himself later said on Twitter that he shouldn’t have allowed himself to be baited), he had quit a bit to say about Seiler.
Andrew Cuomo called Seiler’s column “ugly and insensitive,” and also “obnoxious.” He noted that his father, the late former Gov. Mario Cuomo, wouldn’t watch “The Godfather” because it was “anti-Italian” and was plagued throughout his life by mafia references and speculation that he had ties to organized crime.
“At this time in American society where you have Jewish people being shot in a synagogue and you have Latinos being shot in El Paso, there has to be more sensitivity to these stereotypes and discrimination,” a clearly heated Gov. Cuomo said.
“It fuels the hate. Italian Americans are not Mafia; they’re not Mafia…Don’t you dare liken my family to the family you saw in “The Godfather” or “The Sopranos.” Mario Cuomo lived with these rumors of the Mafia. They hurt him. They scarred him. Every Italian lives with it. Don’t you glorify it and don’t you repeat it and don’t you institutionalize it and say, ‘Well, if you Google it it’s not that bad.'”
Gov. Cuomo went on to demand an apology from Seiler for writing the “disgusting” column. He suggested that Seiler, who are up in Kentucky and used to be the TU’s entertainment editor, “doesn’t really know New York” and was “enamored with the actors and actresses” in “The Godfather.”
“It is ugly and if he didn’t know better than the Times Union should have known better,” Gov. Cuomo fumed. “…I’m surprised at the Times Union and I’m surprised at Rex Smith, who did know better, and I’m surprised at the editors, who at this time of ethnic sensitivity…that they would let that garbage to be written. And I’m sorry for being strong, but I have strong feelings on it.”
After the governor’s interview, Seiler said on Twitter that he did not, in fact, liken the Cuomo family to the families in either “The Godfather” or “The Sopranos,” adding:
“I’m afraid the governor might be confusing my column with the @nypost front, which I denounced. Can someone offer a sense of what in my column is objectionable vis a vis the Cuomos?”