NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - It's become "Fredo-gate."
A video of CNN anchor Chris Cuomo going ballistic after a heckler calls him "Fredo" has gone viral, sparking a new discussion about ethnic slurs.
CBS2 political reporter Marcia Kramer reports.
It all happened because Cuomo didn't like being compared to the ineffective son in "The Godfather" forced to take a backseat to younger brother Michael.
Psychologists could probably have a field day about why Chris, the youngest of five Cuomo siblings whose older brother Andrew just happens to be the governor of the State of New York, didn't like being called "Fredo."
Suffice it to say, he lost it in a profanity-laced tirade.
"Don't (expletive) insult me like that," said Chris Cuomo. "You call me 'Fredo,' I call you punk (expletive), you like that?"
The video surfaced on a right-wing YouTube channel, causing some to suggest Cuomo was set up.
It was his insistence that calling an Italian person "Fredo" - "It's like the n-word for us." - that generated very public debate about ethnic slurs.
The actress Mia Farrow tweeted, "For that I bet Frank Sinatra wd have punched your false teeth out."
Philip Foglia, of the Italian American Legal Defense Fund, said it didn't rise to the level of the n-word, but called the mob reference ethnic defamation.
"I would be personally offended if someone called me a 'Fredo' because of the implications of that," said Folgia. "Clearly it's an ethnic slur."
Fordham professor Dr. Kathleen Lapenta, director of the Bronx Italian American History Initiative, told CBS2 that calling someone "Fredo" "...certainly seems to carry the weight of a bad stereotype.... And that - as Chris Cuomo's reaction suggests - sparks a strong reaction."
President Donald Trump posted to Twitter about the dispute multiple times on Tuesday.
"It always happens! When a Conservative does even a fraction of what Chris Cuomo did with his lunatic ranting, raving, & cursing, they get destroyed by the Fake News. But when a Liberal Democrat like Chris Cuomo does it, Republicans immediately come to his defense. We never learn!"
There was no response from Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office on "Fredo-gate" but Chris Cuomo tweeted a response saying "I should be better than the guys baiting me."
He added that there is a lesson from the episode: "No need to add to the ugliness; I should be better than what I oppose."
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