What Does 'Fredo' Mean? What The Insult Directed At Chris Cuomo Actually Means

It originated in 'The Godfather.'

What Does 'Fredo' Mean? What The Insult Directed At Chris Cuomo Actually Means Getty

The Chris Cuomo 'Fredo' controversy is not dying down.

What does Fredo mean? To recap, the CNN anchor was out with his family in Manhattan last summer when a random man called him Fredo — which is basically an ethnic slur against Italian-Americans.

Cuomo is, of course, the son of former New York Governor Mario Cuomo and the brother of current New York governor Andrew Cuomo, and a man of Italian descent.


Cuomo is currently under quarantine after contracting coronavirus, but that still hasn't stopped him from giving political fans some quality entertainment. Even though he's been isolated at home, he has still given interviews with his brother, and the two have been throwing funny barbs at each other during their interviews.

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During the incident last summer, Cuomo went off on a profanity-laden rant and let the man who called him Fredo know exactly what he thought about being called that. But many people have never heard the term before. So, what does "Fredo" mean?

Origins of the term come from The Godfather. 

In the video footage of the altercation, Cuomo lost it and screamed that Fredo is "an Italian aspersion... it’s an insult to your people. It’s like the N-word to us.”

Fredo is a fictional character named Frederico Corleone from Mario Puzo's novel The Godfather and the Francis Ford Coppola film adapatations The Godfather and The Godfather Part II.

Fredo is the second son of mafia boss Vito Corleone. He's Michael Corleone's older brother. Fredo is weaker and less intelligent than his brothers and has little power or status in the Corleone crime family. As an infant, Fredo had pneumonia.


In the novel, as an adult, besides his lower intelligence, his character's primary weakness is his womanizing — which displeases his father. Fredo's feelings of inadequacy lead to greater consequences. 

Is Fredo an ethnic slur?

Generally, calling someone Fredo insinuates they're the dumber, weaker brother. In the Puzo novels and Coppola films, Fredo is unable to bear his lack of brains, charm and personal accomplishment, which leads to Fredo betraying his brother, Michael, and ultimately, his own death.


The term Fredo, in pop culture, has become slang for "incompetent, cowardly, large adult son." Some people, mainly members of the Trump family and their right wing supporters, have taken to Twitter to assert that, in his family, Cuomo actually is the Fredo. He is the son and brother of the former and current governors of New York.

Despite a very successful TV news career, Cuomo could easily be cast as the Fredo of his family. In the video, Cuomo said, rather irately: “Fredo is from The Godfather. He was the weak brother."

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Mario Cuomo had a negative stance on The Godfather.


Cuomo, 49, was a young man when The Godfather movies came out. His dad, the late Mario Cuomo, was a huge critic of The Godfather books and movies. He boycotted them for decades on the grounds that they depicted negative stereotypes of Italian-Americans.

This is the environment Chris Cuomo grew up in, so you can see how he would think Fredo carries more weight as an insult than it actually does. For the record, Mario Cuomo finally saw The Godfather in 2013. Afterwards, he told the New York Times, "Maybe this thing was a masterpiece."

The Trump family responded.

The Trumps love their Twitter accounts. Donald Trump Jr. took to his Twitter to say, "Take it from me, ‘Fredo’ isn’t the N word for Italians, it just means you’re the dumb brother.” The President took to his own Twitter and said, "I thought Chris was Fredo also. The truth hurts. Totally lost it! Low ratings."


Cuomo apologized and CNN stands by him.

Cuomo's CNN coworkers reportedly found Cuomo's outburst embarrassing. One staffer said that Chris has a good reputation with CNN's staff but that the video "...was embarrassing. It was an unforced error, and he gave the right — and the president — ammunition to use against him and CNN."

Cuomo did apologize, saying, “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.”

CNN issued a tweet in support of Cuomo, writing, “Chris Cuomo defended himself when he was verbally attacked with the use of an ethnic slur in an orchestrated setup. We completely support him.”


Cuomo recently admitted that he doesn't like his job and then denied saying it.

In a new interview, Cuomo said that he doesn't like his professional career.

He said, “I don’t want to spend my time doing things that I don’t think are valuable enough to me personally. I don’t value indulging irrationality, hyperpartisanship. I don’t like what I do professionally. I don’t think it’s worth my time. I don't think it's worth it to me because I don't think I mean enough, I don't think I matter enough, I don't think I can really change anything, so then what am I really doing?"

He went on to add, "I’m seen as being good at being on TV and advocating for different positions... but I don’t know if I value those things, certainly not as much as I value being able to live my life on my own terms.”


Cuomo also spoke out about his critics and confessed that he'd like to be able to tell them a few choice words. 

“That matters to me more than making millions of dollars a year... because I’ve saved my money and I don’t need it anymore. I want to be able to tell you to go to h*ll, to shut your mouth. I don’t get that, doing what I do for a living... me being able to tell you to shut your mouth or I will do you the way you guys do each other. Here I am in an almost powerless position against this a**hole because I'm a celebrity and he's allowed to say whatever he wants to me."

But, Cuomo was quick to deny his own comments about his job. He said that "he loves his position." He then said, "Why is there so much interest in what I said about my frustrations with my profession yesterday? I have never been in a better position professionally than I am in right now."

However, in a separate statement, Cuomo claimed that he never even said it at all. "It's not true. I never said it. I never meant it." He even said that he has signed a long-term contract to continue working at his job.


So, we guess he really does like his job after all? 

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Amy Lamare is a Los Angeles based freelance writer covering entertainment, pop culture, beauty, fashion, fitness, technology, and the intersection of technology, business, and philanthropy. You can find her on Instagram and Facebook.

Editor's Note: This article was originally posted on August 15, 2019 and was updated with the latest information.