As many of you know, I am a constant critic of the loss of civility in our society. For that reason, I was not critical of CNN host Chris Cuomo when he reacted angrily to a guy who went out of his way to insult Cuomo by calling him “Fredo,” a reference to the weak, older brother of Michael Corleone. After calling Cuomo “Fredo,” the man mocks him further by saying “I thought that was who you were.” Cuomo responds with profanity, which is captured on video and went viral. I am sympathetic to Cuomo when people believe that they have license to insult celebrities and suspend basic rules of civility just because someone is on television. It is particularly disturbing to have the President of the United States join in the mockery and lower his office to the level of a troll.
In the viral video Cuomo is captured slang “No, punk-ass b—-es from the right call me ‘Fredo.’ My name is Chris Cuomo. I’m an anchor on CNN,” Cuomo responded. “‘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—ing 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—ing thing?”
First, two points of needed clarification. First, the analogy to The Godfather is misplaced. Fredo was the older brother of Michael and was upset for that reason in being “passed over” for head of the family after Sonny was killed. Chris Cuomo is the younger brother to Gov. Michael Cuomo. Moreover, being a CNN host is hardly an example of a failure. While Cuomo has garnered much opposition for his criticism of Trump on CNN, he remains a major media figure — hardly the sleazy sycophantic figure of Fredo.
Second, while Cuomo says that “Fredo” is the Italian version of the “n-word.” To answer his question to the heckler with the camera, I am Italian and it is not. (What is weird is that Cuomo himself once joked about being the Fredo of the family).
To his credit, Cuomo did apologize though the one most responsible in my view is the heckler: “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.”
Trump however decided that it was appropriate for the President of the United States to come down in support of some bar troll who likes to insult celebrities. “I thought Chris was Fredo also. The truth hurts. Totally lost it! Low ratings @CNN.”
This tweet, like too many from the President, caters to the lowest common denominator in our society. It not only supports uncivil and rude conduct but actually joins in heaping insults on someone viewed as a critic. While many may enjoy this type of WWE banter, many of us do not. Many of us still respect the Office of the President as a symbol of our highest — not lowest — aspirations.