Although Chris Cuomo and his employer, CNN, insist that calling someone 'Fredo' is an ethnic slur on a par with the n-word, even Vox takes exception to such a comparison. On Tuesday, Vox culture staff writer Alissa Wilkinson weighed in on this topic and came down very definitely on the side of no ethnic slur represented by "Fredo."
The very title of her article reveals what she thinks about this controversy: "CNN’s Chris Cuomo said 'Fredo' is like 'the n-word' for Italians. It’s … not."
“Punk-ass bitches from the right call me Fredo,” Cuomo says in the video, reportedly filmed on Shelter Island in New York and uploaded to right-wing YouTube channel “That’s the Point with Brandon.” (The video has since been deleted from YouTube, but remains on Twitter.) “My name is Chris Cuomo. I’m an anchor on CNN. Fredo is from The Godfather. He was a weak brother. And they’re using it as an Italian aspersion.”
Pausing to ask if any of the onlookers are Italian, Cuomo adds, “It’s an insult to your f---ing people. It’s like the n-word for us.” Then he threatens the man who apparently called him Fredo, saying he’ll “throw you down these stairs like a f---ing punk.”
Cuomo is right about one thing: Fredo is, indeed, a reference to The Godfather, or more specifically to Fredo Corleone, second son of mob don Vito Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola’s classic Godfather films.
"I'm your older brother, Mike, and I was stepped over!"
In The Godfather: Part II, a frustrated Fredo tries to make a power play by colluding with Johnny Ola (a rival gangster) and winds up inadvertently giving him information that helps Ola’s plot to off Michael. He later tells Michael he’s never met Ola, and then royally self-owns when he blurts out to someone else that he did meet Ola.
Just like Chris Cuomo self-owns when he screamed indignantly about being called "Fredo."
But Cuomo is being disingenuous at best when he says that Fredo is an insult that’s equivalent to the n-word. (In a statement of support for Cuomo, CNN also characterized the name as an “ethnic slur.”) The latter term has a lengthy and well-trod history as a racist insult, an unambiguous pejorative against black people when used by non-black people. The former is a reference to a pop cultural character from books published in the 1960s and movie adaptations produced the following decade. One is a degrading slur meant to dehumanize the target; the other is a metaphor with unflattering connotations: that the target bears a similarity to a character infamous for his lack of integrity.
"I can handle things! I'm smart! Not like everybody says... like dumb... I'm smart and I want respect!"
The potential implications of the name Fredo aren’t good, as they highlight the disparity between the career accomplishments of Chris Cuomo and his brother, while also suggesting the possible perception of the former’s weakness. (That being said, this is all complicated by the fact that Cuomo referred to himself as Fredo in a radio interview in 2010.)
"Fredo has a good heart, but he is weak...and stupid, and stupid people are the most dangerous of all."