CNN’s Chris Cuomo landed in some hot water this week. When an ill-motivated cameraman approached him for a picture, calling him “Fredo,” Cuomo launched into a profanity laden rant against the man.
CNN quickly voiced its support for their anchor, saying: “Chris Cuomo defended himself when he was verbally attacked with the use of an ethnic slur in an orchestrated setup. We completely support him.” But the altercation raises questions about the role of the media in public and the double standard between Left and Right.
The context of this confrontation is important. Cuomo was out in public with his family when a man holding a camera approached him. The man called him “Fredo,” a mocking term used for Cuomo by Rush Limbaugh and other conservative pundits. Hearing this, Cuomo overreacted and attacked the man verbally. CNN explains:
“The altercation continued to heat up. Cuomo warned the person that he was going to have a “f***ing problem.” Someone shouted, “What are you going to do about it?” Cuomo responded, “I’ll f***ing ruin your s**t. I’ll f***ing throw you down these stairs like a f***ing punk.”
Of course, CNN left out Cuomo’s most audacious claim, that “Fredo” was on par with the worst ethnic slur in the English language.
““They use it as an Italian aspersion. Any of you Italian?” Cuomo asked. “It’s an insult to your f***ing people. It’s like the N-word for us.”
Far be it from us to question anyone’s response to an ethnic slur, and no one should use them under any circumstances. But Cuomo’s comparison of Fredo to the “N-word” seems laughable. For one, though Fredo is an Italian name, it is also a reference to the character from the Godfather. That character is a weak and ineffectual younger brother. Cuomo’s older brother Andrew is Governor of New York. Chris is a political pundit on CNN. While the name is certainly meant as an attack, it isn’t necessarily ethnically motivated, though both Cuomo and the character from Godfather are Italian.
More importantly, one need only imagine what the response would be to such a claim if it were Tucker Carlson or Sean Hannity making it.
Eventually, a bystander broke up the altercation. But not before the agitator caught everything on video.
The Right’s Response
The Right has met Cuomo’s outburst with numerous and varied responses. The media asked President Trump for his thoughts this morning, and he responded predictably:
I think that what Chris Cuomo did was horrible. His language was horrible. He looked like a total, out of control animal. He lost it. And frankly, I don’t think anybody should defend him, because he spews lies every night. So I don’t know why anybody would defend him. But Chris Cuomo was out of control. I watched it, I thought it was terrible. So I don’t know who’s defending him. Maybe they didn’t see it. Maybe they haven’t gotten a full picture. But I think anybody that would have seen Chris Cuomo would have said that was a disgrace. You’ve never seen me do that.
Trump’s righteous indignation is a little rich, but his point is somewhat valid. CNN’s rush to passionately defend their anchor seems strange. But CNN wasn’t alone in this pursuit. Hannity himself, one of Cuomo’s top political opponents, chimed in in his defenses on Twitter.
I say good for @ChrisCuomo
He’s out with his 9 year old daughter, and his wife, and this guy is being a jackass in front of his family.
Imho Chris Cuomo has zero to apologize for. He deserves the apology. https://t.co/VnyMNgz14U
— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) August 13, 2019
Hannity’s defense comes as something of a surprise. Many would expect the FOX host to respond with derision to Cuomo’s outburst. But he likely sees a lot of himself in Cuomo’s response. And in this case he shared his sympathies.
Cuomo, for his part, posted his own classy and reflective response on Twitter:
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
Kudos to Cuomo for owning his mistake. But let’s think for a moment about how this story would be told if it happened to a member of the other side.
Time Machine to Yesterday
As recently as, oh… yesterday, the media at large were blaming FOX News and hosts like Hannity and Carlson for the attacks in El Paso. Apparently, the rhetoric these talking heads promote, much like the rhetoric the President promotes, is personally to blame for the actions of an insane gunman on the Southern border.
Before we go further, let’s be clear: the President’s rhetoric is a problem. Carlson and Hannity’s promotion of “invasion” rhetoric to describe the immigration crisis is a problem. But it is not responsible for the deranged actions of a madman.
More importantly, it exposes the double standard of the media when, on one day, they are calling for boycotts and protests of their political opponents, and on the very next day, they are passionately supporting one of their own when he verbally assaults a political opponent in public.
If political rhetoric can incite unlawful behavior, then certainly those in the media who call for protests against Carlson have apologized profusely for the home invasion he suffered late last year? Rioters, thinly veiled as “protesters,” surrounded Carlson’s home when he was at work, menacing his wife and threatening to break down the door, chanting “we know where you sleep at night.”
Of course, there was no apology for that. When Carlson’s wife calls the police about a potential home invasion, she is overreacting to a “peaceful protest.” When Cuomo gets in a shouting match with a troll who asked him for a picture, he is a hero of the people simply trying to defend his family.
The point isn’t to condemn either Cuomo or Carlson. Carlson’s rhetoric is problematic, but neither his own nor his family’s safety should ever be jeopardized because of that. And while Cuomo clearly overreacted to his antagonist, public figures should not be subject to political opposition when they are out with their families.
The point is merely to suggest that there is, as there always has been, a double standard in these cases. Either the media is protected or it isn’t. Either speech is free or it isn’t. The media needs to condemn political violence on both sides, wherever and however it happens.