Is ‘Fredo’ an Ethnic Slur Against Italians?

chris cuomo


The name “Fredo” has been trending on social media and in Google searches after a video of CNN anchor Chris Cuomo getting into a heated confrontation with a heckler went viral. The man referred to Cuomo as “Fredo” and appeared to mock Cuomo by repeatedly stating that he thought that was the anchor’s name.

Cuomo became visibly agitated and launched into a profanity-laced rant against the man. He told the man that “punk a** b*tches from the right call me Fredo” and claimed that it was an ethnic insult against Italians. He compared the name to the n-word and threatened to toss the man down the stairs.

The exchange happened at a Long Island, New York restaurant on August 11, reportedly in front of Cuomo’s wife, Cristina Greeven Cuomo, and one of their children. CNN’s VP of Communications Matt Dornic wrote on Twitter that the network supports Cuomo and that the anchor had “defended himself when he was verbally attacked with the use of an ethnic slur in an orchestrated setup.” Cuomo also received support from Fox News host Sean Hannity, who stated that Cuomo was defending himself against a “jack*ss.”

Cuomo has since expressed regret for the outburst. He wrote on Twitter that he “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.”

The confrontation has sparked a social media debate over whether the name “Fredo” is really an ethnic slur.

Here’s what you need to know.

‘Fredo’ is a Fictional Character in the Godfather Series

"I know it was you, Fredo."Michael kisses his brother in Cuba: a scene from The Godfather Part II.2014-01-13T02:39:05.000Z

Fredo Corleone is a fictional character in the Godfather movie series, portrayed by American actor John Cazale in the iconic franchise. He is the middle son of Mafia boss Vito Corleone. The character is passed over in favor of his younger brother, Michael, to take charge of the family business. This prompts Fredo to betray his brother and attempt to have Michael killed.

Fredo is eventually gunned down on a boat by Michael’s bodyguard, with Michael watching the murder take place. Fredo is known as a “weak” character who desperately tries to secure his father’s respect but can never seem to get there.

Edward Falco, the author of the 2012 novel “The Family Corleone” that is meant as a prequel to the Godfather, weighed in on Chris Cuomo being referred to as “Fredo.” Falco told the Washington Post that he agrees that the use of the name was likely meant as an ethnic slur in this context. Cuomo has Italian heritage and the name could have been used with the intent of slamming Cuomo as incompetent while also referencing his family background.

But Falco disagreed that the name is equivalent to the n-word. He told the newspaper that he felt Cuomo went “overboard” with that comparison.

American studies Professor Michael Mark Cohen from UC Berkeley told USA Today, “Fredo was an untrusted and untrustworthy son who, after being patronized and ‘passed over’ by his powerful family, came to betray his brother out of stupidity and ego. So yes, that’s a custom made, deep cut kind of insult for someone like Chris Cuomo. And evidently, it cut to the quick.”

The Name ‘Fredo’ is Described on Urban Dictionary as a Reference to a ‘Screw-Up’ Family Member

Calling someone a “Fredo” is generally thought of as an insult due to the personality flaws exhibited by the Godfather character.

Urban Dictionary includes the following definition: “To be the ‘black sheep’ in the family, like the one that is the goof and the screw-up. Named after Fredo Corleone, who was Michael’s older brother in the Godfather, and he was considered to be the failure in the family.”

In the aftermath of the video going viral, it’s been pointed out that Chris Cuomo previously referred to the Fredo character during a radio interview in 2010. According to the New York Post, Cuomo went on radio host Curtis Sliwa’s AM program around the time that his older brother, Andrew Cuomo, had begun considering a run for the New York governor’s office. Sliwa told Cuomo that he thought of his family as “la Cuomo Nostra.” (Their father, the late Mario Cuomo, also previously served as New York’s governor). Cuomo responded to Sliwa by appearing to joke, “Who am I, then, Fredo?”

Many Commenters on Social Media, Including Those Who Identified as Having Italian Ancestry, Disagreed That ‘Fredo’ is an Ethnic Slur

Chris Cuomo’s claim that the name “Fredo” was equivalent to the use of the n-word prompted a swift backlash on social media. The term was trending all day on August 13 as people weighed in on the debate. There have been a few commenters who agreed that the name was offensive, but the majority appear to be rejecting the idea that it’s a racial slur, including many who self-identified as having Italian ancestry.

Here is a roundup of some of the recent comments.

READ NEXT: WATCH: Chris Cuomo Confronted by Heckler Calling Him ‘Fredo’

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