The Godfather actor Gianni Russo weighed in over the weekend about CNN host Chris Cuomo's rant about being called "Fredo" by a stranger, saying it was ‘like spitting on the Mona Lisa.'
The controversy started when a man approached Cuomo in public earlier this month and called him "Fredo." This encounter prompted Cuomo to start cursing at the man. Cuomo then said calling an Italian "Fredo" is like calling a black person the "N-word."
Russo, who played Godfather Vito Corleone’s wife-beating son-in-law Carlo Rizzi, was approached by a TMZ reporter and asked whether he believes "Fredo" is an ethnic slur against Italians. Fredo was a fictional character in The Godfather series and was known as the weakest and least intelligent brother of the Corleone crime family.
"I can't believe that he would say that. First of all, I know the whole family. His father would smack him," Russo said.
"Really?" the reporter asked.
"I know his mother. I was just with his mother recently," Russo said.
Russo went on to say "of course" when asked whether Cuomo's dad, the late New York Gov. Mario Cuomo (D.), would be ashamed of his son's rant. He went on to say, "First of all, it's a classic film. You're talking about a character who is weak."
Later in the interview, Russo said he heard Cuomo has "hurt his career" and added, "All these news guys are getting too opinionated. They are supposed to report news. It's not about what you think. You're taking Fredo, a character from a classic. It's like spitting at the Mona Lisa. Are you crazy or what?"
The reporter said Cuomo told the man who approached him that he had been called "Fredo" all of his life, prompting Russo to say, "Knowing that family, I don't think they would say that to him. They like him. He's the last of the kids. I know them all."
The controversy was caught on video and showed Cuomo responding to the stranger with profanity and a threat to throw the man down the stairs.
"No, punk-ass b—es from the right call me ‘Fredo.' My name is Chris Cuomo. I'm an anchor on CNN," Cuomo said. "‘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?"
"[I will] f–king throw you down these stairs like a f–king punk," Cuomo added.
After the video went viral on Twitter, Cuomo tweeted he "should be better" than the people trying to bait him.
"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," Cuomo tweeted.
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.
— Christopher C. Cuomo (@ChrisCuomo) August 13, 2019