Donald Trump uses ethnic slur against CNN host Cuomo: "I thought Chris was Fredo also"

Meanwhile, Trump supporter and Fox News host Sean Hannity rushed to Cuomo's defense as a viral video circulates

By Matthew Rozsa

Published August 13, 2019 11:49AM (EDT)

Chris Cuomo; Sean Hannity; Donald Trump (AP/Getty)
Chris Cuomo; Sean Hannity; Donald Trump (AP/Getty)

When he shared a viral video that shows an unidentified racist hurling an ethnic slur at CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, President Donald Trump himself promoted the use of the same epithet.

"I thought Chris was Fredo also. The truth hurts. Totally lost it! Low ratings @CNN" the president wrote as he re-circulated the video.

An anonymous man can be heard saying to Cuomo in the video that "I thought that's who you were."

"No — punk-ass bitches from the right call me Fredo," Cuomo shot back. "My name is Chris Cuomo. I'm an anchor on CNN. Fredo is from The Godfather. He was that weak brother."

"Isn't that your brother, though?" the man responded.

"And they use it as an Italian aspersion," Cuomo continued. "Any of you Italian?"

"I've got a little bit of . . ." the man stammered.

"Any of you Italian? It's a f*cking insult to your people. It's an insult to your f*cking people. It's like the 'N-word' for us. Is that a cool f*cking thing?" Cuomo asked.

"You're a much more reasonable guy in person than you seem to be on television," the man replied, seeming to dodge the subject.

"If you want to play, then we'll f*cking play," Cuomo continued. "If you've got something you want to say about what I do on television, then say it. But don't be calling me a f*cking insult."

"Hey, man. Hey, listen," the man said in response. "We don't want any problems, bro."

"Well, you're going to have a big f*cking problem, because I look different on TV. Don't f*cking insult me like that," Cuomo said.

When the racist said he thought Cuomo's name really was Fredo, despite the fact that he recognized him from CNN, the anchor called the man's claim an obvious lie. At that point, Cuomo threatens physical violence against the unknown man, who he implies would then sue the anchor if he was hit. Eventually, a third person broke the two men up while another voice says, "Look at all these cameras. You're in for it. You're in for it."

The exchange highlighted in the tweet promoted by Trump involved Cuomo saying, "You're going to have a problem." When the man replied, "What are you going to do about it?" Cuomo shot back, "I'll f*cking ruin your sh*t. I'll f*cking throw you down these stairs."

The term "Fredo" is an insult derived from the John Cazale character Fredo Corleone in The Godfather and The Godfather: Part Two. He was a weak and unintelligent brother in a mafia family who was viewed with scorn by the other Corleone clan. The term "Fredo" is generally regarded as a slur against Italian Americans by implying both that they are are weak and unintelligent and also connected to organized crime.

A CNN spokesperson expressed support for Cuomo, telling the Hill that the anchor "was defending himself when he was verbally attacked with the use of an ethnic slur in an orchestrated setup."

Trump supporter and Fox News host Sean Hannity also rushed to Cuomo's defense.

"I say good for @ChrisCuomo," Hannity tweeted. "He’s out with his 9 year old daughter, and his wife, and this guy is being a jackass in front of his family. [In my humble opinion,] Chris Cuomo has zero to apologize for. He deserves the apology."

Watch the video of the encounter with Cuomo below: 

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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