Frank Cerabino’s column on CNN’s Chris Cuomo’s reaction to being called "Fredo", the character in the Godfather movies.
If you call me "Fredo," I won’t threaten to throw you down a flight of stairs.
Just sayin’. I wanted to get that out.
The social media world has been convulsing over a chest-to-chest public confrontation between CNN anchor Chris Cuomo and a random jerk who felt the need to call Cuomo “Fredo,” the dim-witted older brother of Michael Corleone in “The Godfather” movies.
This was a keep-walking situation.
But Cuomo stopped and reacted impulsively. He got in the guy’s face, and while being recorded on a mobile phone, said he would "ruin" the man’s … um, er, excrement … for referring to him as the fictional character in the mobster movie.
"Fredo is from The Godfather," Cuomo told the man. "He was a weak brother. And they use it for an Italian aspersion … It’s like the ‘n’ word for us."
Whoa. It is? When did that happen to "us"? I didn’t know I had an "n" word of my own.
I thought the "n" word was a one-off. And just black people had the "n" word, which as others have rightly pointed out, is such a vile word with such a terribly evil history, that it’s best to not even spell out the last five letters.
We Italian Americans don’t have an insult that is so offensive it is spoken only by its first letter. Case in point: We don’t refer to being called "Fredo" as the "f" word.
Maybe it’s because the letter "f" is already holding down so many food names like formaggio, fusilli, fettuccine, finocchio, frittata, fagiolo and farfalle.
But it’s probably because being called "Fredo" is a pretty weak insult, and one that requires a working knowledge of Godfather trivia.
So it would have been best for Cuomo to ignore it. But instead, he made things worse.
As the jerk needled Cuomo by saying in a calm voice that he thought Cuomo’s real first name was "Fredo," it just made Cuomo more agitated.
"You did not think my name was Fredo!" Cuomo shouted. "Don’t be a liar, and stand up like a man."
Cuomo then talked about throwing the guy down a flight of stairs and urging him to "take a f------ swing."
For a guy trying to distance himself from a character in a mobster movie, Cuomo was practically improvising a Scorsese audition.
I kept waiting for some piano wire, a baseball bat or a tray of cannolis to materialize, or for somebody to say, "Paulie, go get the car."
Others stepped in to defuse the situation before it became physical.
And now this little episode has metastasized into a social media passion play, complete with input from the guy who has nothing better to do: President Donald Trump:
"I thought Chris was Fredo also," Trump tweeted. "The truth hurts. Totally lost it! Low ratings."
Bad behavior is contagious.
Nevertheless, it seems like I should weigh in here because it just so happens that I am super-qualified to offer an opinion on this matter, being that I am an Italian American older brother who is sometimes insulted by random jerks.
For those of you unfamiliar with the fictional Fredo, and his lament, here he is in "Godfather, Part II" unloading to his younger and smarter brother, Michael Corleone, about being passed over to run the family business.
"Send Fredo off to do this. Send Fredo off to do that. Let Fredo take care of some Mickey Mouse nightclub somewhere," Fredo rages. "Send Fredo to pick somebody up at the airport. I’m your older brother, Mike, and I was stepped over.
"It ain’t the way I wanted it. I can handle things. I’m smart. Not like everybody says. Like dumb. I’m smart and I want respect."
So, being called "Fredo" is really just being called a dim-witted, passed-over older brother.
Which in Cuomo’s case would only work as a cutting insult against his older brother, Andrew.
Except it doesn’t work at all, considering that in Cuomo’s case, the older brother, Andrew, did step into the shoes of his father in the family business of politics.
So, the insult doesn’t fit Chris Cuomo, who isn’t the older brother and wasn’t passed over, but instead became very successful on a path of his own in the news business.
If Chris Cuomo were a real-life Fredo, he’d be picking up people at Albany’s airport for a nonexistent younger brother.
So as insults go, this was a poorly constructed swing and a miss. And not even a credible Italian American slur.
This was an easy one to ignore. Some fool who doesn’t like you or your network said something stupid. Keep walking.
Or as Michael Corleone said in "Godfather, Part 3":
"Never hate your enemies. It affects your judgment."