Chris Cuomo Threatens Man Who Called Him ‘Fredo’

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Chris Cuomo, the CNN anchor and member of a New York political dynasty, unleashed a spate of profanity-laced insults and threatened to throw a man down some stairs after the man apparently called him Fredo, a reference to “The Godfather” film trilogy, according to a video that spread across social media on Monday night.

The video, originally shared on the conservative YouTube channel That’s The Point With Brandon, does not show the comment that sparked the incident. But it captures Mr. Cuomo’s furious response as he takes umbrage at the remark, which he called tantamount to “the n-word” for Italian-Americans.

“My name is Chris Cuomo,” he says in the video. “I’m an anchor on CNN. Fredo is from ‘The Godfather.’ He was that weak brother. And they use it as an Italian aspersion.”

Mr. Cuomo’s brother is Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and their father is the former governor Mario M. Cuomo. In the “Godfather” films, Fredo Corleone is the feeble, ineffectual brother of the Mafia leader Michael Corleone, who is resentful that Michael became the heir to the family’s business.

On Tuesday morning, Mr. Cuomo posted a statement, saying, “Appreciate all the support but — truth is I should be better than the guys baiting me.”

He added: “There is a lesson: no need to add to the ugliness; I should be better than what I oppose.”

On Monday night, a CNN spokesman, Matt Dornic, said on Twitter that the network stood behind Mr. Cuomo.

“Chris Cuomo defended himself when he was verbally attacked with the use of an ethnic slur in an orchestrated setup,” Mr. Dornic wrote. “We completely support him.”

In the YouTube video, Mr. Cuomo said his conservative critics had frequently used the name as an insult against him.

On Tuesday morning, President Trump, who often criticizes the Cuomo brothers, seemed to drive that point home, writing on Twitter: “I thought Chris was Fredo also. The truth hurts. Totally lost it.”

Mr. Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., also weighed in on Twitter. Addressing Mr. Cuomo on Monday night, he wrote: “Take it from me, ‘Fredo’ isn’t the N word for Italians, it just means you’re the dumb brother.”

The Cuomo family has long chafed at even the hint of a Mafia reference. Mario Cuomo frequently urged reporters and public officials not to use the word “Mafia” — even when a mob boss was killed in 1985 — calling it an “ugly stereotype.”

Brandon Recor, the host of the YouTube channel that posted the video, said he was sent the footage on Sunday night by the man involved in the confrontation, who Mr. Recor said requested anonymity because he lived in New York and was worried about retribution from the governor.

Mr. Recor, who lives in Los Angeles, said the man was at a bar in Shelter Island, N.Y., when he approached Mr. Cuomo. In the video, the man insists he thought Mr. Cuomo’s name really was Fredo.

Mr. Recor claimed that “the guy listens to Rush Limbaugh a lot, and for whatever reason, Rush Limbaugh refers to Chris Cuomo as Fredo. So the guy was like, ‘Hey, Fredo, can I get a photo?’”

Reaction to the video did not split down neatly partisan lines. Mr. Cuomo gained unlikely support from Sean Hannity, a rival Fox News host who commended his actions, and Joe Walsh, the former congressman and talk-radio host.

“Chris Cuomo had every right to defend himself,” Mr. Walsh wrote on Twitter on Tuesday morning. But, he added, “‘Fredo’ is not the ‘n-word.’”

Mario Cuomo often pointed out that references to the Mafia, and his Italian heritage in general, had been used against him by political rivals — perhaps most famously by Bill Clinton in 1992, when Mr. Clinton was seeking the Democratic nomination for president and Mr. Cuomo was weighing a bid.

“He acts like one,” Mr. Clinton said, after someone suggested that Mr. Cuomo had Mafia connections, in a recorded telephone conversation that was made public.

The former governor’s aversion to the supposed stereotype extended even — and especially — to “The Godfather.” He famously refused for decades to watch the film, finally giving in in 2013. (He grudgingly conceded that “maybe this thing was a masterpiece.”)

Andrew Cuomo has been the target of Mafia-related political attacks, too, with several Republican opponents over the years likening his governing style to the crime organization.

But in recent years, some liberal commentators have also used Mafia comparisons to refer to Mr. Trump and his family, with some of them comparing members of the president’s family — particularly his eldest son — to Fredo.

At least one such comparison took place on Mr. Cuomo’s show, as his critics pointed out on Monday night. In January, the Republican strategist Ana Navarro referred to Donald Trump Jr. as Fredo, saying, “He didn’t even make the cut that his brother-in-law and sister did to be part of the Oval Office and the White House staff. Daddy kept Fredo back home.”

Donald Trump Jr. shared a short clip of Ms. Navarro’s comments on Monday night, noting that Mr. Cuomo did not object to her remarks.

Vivian Wang contributed reporting.


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