Though CNN’s Chris Cuomo’s recent outburst against a heckler referring to him as “Fredo” in reference to “The Godfather” character has yielded mixed reactions among both the Left and the Right. Tuesday night, Trevor Noah of “The Daily Show” mocked famed host for comparing the “Fredo” insult to the N-word, according to The Daily Beast.
“Yo, Chris Cuomo doesn’t mess around!” Noah said regarding Cuomo. “Now I see why CNN makes people fight in separate boxes. That’s just workplace safety.”
The viral video of Cuomo showed him threatening the heckler that he’d throw him “down these stairs like a f***ing punk” if he persisted mocking him.
“No, punk-a** b****es from the Right call me Fredo,” Cuomo said in the video. “My name is Chris Cuomo, I’m an anchor on CNN. Fredo is from ‘The Godfather,’ he was that weak brother and they’re using it as an Italian aspersion. It’s like the ‘n-word’ for us.”
“I’ll f***ing ruin your shit. I’ll f***ing throw you down these stairs like a f***ing punk,” he later told the heckler.
Trevor Noah understood Cuomo’s contention that Fredo could be a “negative Italian stereotype” but couldn’t help but laugh that he chose to react in a way that “seemed like a negative Italian stereotype.”
As to whether or not the Fredo insult amounted to the N-word, Noah brought out correspondent Roy Wood Jr. to offer his take.
“Is calling an Italian person ‘Fredo’ the same as calling a black person the ‘n-word’?” the correspondent asked. After a few beats of awkwardly staring into the camera, Roy Wood Jr. just walked off the set.
Not everyone has seized the moment to mock Chris Cuomo, however. In fact, some conservatives have outright defended him due to the fact that the men heckled him while being out with his family.
“I say good for [Chris Cuomo],” Sean Hannity said in response. “He’s out with his 9 year old daughter, and his wife, and this guy is being a jacka** in front of his family. [In my opinion] Chris Cuomo has zero to apologize for. He deserves the apology.”
Tiana Lowe of the Washington Examiner also argued that while Cuomo should not have referred to Fredo as the N-word, people should recognize that public figures should not be heckled, especially in front of their family.
CNN haters have rightly criticized the absurd idea that this reference to the dopey Godfather brother was intended to impugn Cuomo’s Italian ethnicity rather than his follies. But lost here is the more important lesson of CNN’s defense: Public figures in a private capacity deserve not to be heckled or threatened in civil society, especially in front of their children.
Based on the available reporting, the video seems to have been prompted by a right-wing troll who accosted Cuomo at a Shelter Island bar while the anchor was on vacation. The unidentified man, who presumably staged the encounter, then sent the video to a right-wing YouTube channel.
It’s wrong to aggressively confront a public figure in a private capacity, especially if it’s with the sole intention of filming a provocation. It’s one thing to politely voice a concern or complaint with someone if they seem willing to engage with a stranger in their personal time. It’s entirely another to harass them while they’re on a family vacation.
Cuomo himself has at least acknowledged he went too far by threatening violence on the man who heckled him in public.
“Appreciate all the support but – truth is I should be better than the guys baiting me,” he said in a tweet. “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.”