“We have newspaper people on the payroll, don’t we?”
So asks Michael Corleone to Tom Hagen in one of many memorable scenes from The Godfather, a turning point in the film and the life of Michael.
For conservatives, The Godfather has become fodder for analogies between the Corleone brothers and the Cuomo brothers. Rush Limbaugh christened Chris Cuomo “Fredo,” the weaker brother in the relationship between Fredo and Michael, played brilliantly by John Cazale and Al Pacino, respectively. Chris was caught on video last year exploding at a guy (surely a Rush “dittohead”) who confronted him in public: “Why do they call you Fredo?” The dude clearly seemed to be looking to bust Chris’s (as they say in Italian) coglioni.
Chris, for his part, lost it. The CNN primetime star launched into a stream of street-thug invectives: “I’ll f—ing ruin your sh—t! I’ll f—ing throw you down these stairs like a f—ing punk! Take a swing, c’mon boy!”
A fictional Michael Corleone asks that question, but the scene strikes me as far too real in the case of Andrew Cuomo.
All of which prompts an objection to dear Rush Limbaugh’s “Fredo” label: Watching Chris go ballistic reminds me less of Fredo Corleone than Santino Corleone — that is, “Sonny,” the older brother, played fabulously by James Caan.
“If you ever hit my sister again, I’ll kill you!” Sonny threatened Carlo, the reprobate husband of his sister, Connie, the later cannoli killer of Don Altobello.
Chris’s outburst smacked of Sonny, albeit with apologies to the latter, whose language was far more restrained. (I don’t recall Sonny calling Carlo a “punk b-tch.”)
To be fair, one can understand Chris’s frustration. Still, Chris acted like a complete ciuccio — a chooch, a jackass (or, as my friend Joe Loconte translates, better rendered as a “baby pacifier”).
If I may say so, I have the background to speak to this. Readers wouldn’t know this from the unfortunate Eastern European–Slavic–Polish last name I’ve inherited from father’s side (the elusive-mongrel roots of which no Kengor seems able to definitively pin down), but my mom is 100 percent Italian, and I’m confident that more than 50 percent of my DNA hails from Reggio Calabria.
I actually grew up with relatives with names like Sonny and Michael and Freddy (close enough), plus a Bruno, a Nunzio, and on and on. Though I don’t have a Corleone family in the immediate bloodline, I do have a Catrone family. I vividly recall one of my Italian uncles, in thick New York accent, barking at his wise-guy son (a cousin) during a friendly game of family baseball: “Patrick, if you do that again, I’ll break your neck! I swear to God, Patrick, I’ll break your freakin’ neck! I swear to God!”
Well, he didn’t break my cousin’s freakin’ neck. It was just another ho-hum moment repeated regularly during family get-togethers. It was a Sonny-like moment that Chris Cuomo would no doubt appreciate.
I tell people all the time, without exaggeration, that every family wedding I ever attended on my mom’s side looked like the opening scene of The Godfather. The first family function that my fiancée (now wife) experienced was akin to that of a bemused Kay (the WASP, played by Diane Keaton) with Michael at the famous wedding scene. My wife is Italian-looking, though the resemblance comes from the eastern end of the Mediterranean, from Syria or Lebanon. My grandma and aunts Della and Mary were impressed. “Oh, Paulie!” they asked me (yes, they called me Paulie). “She’s pretty! Is she Italian?” That was question No. 1, followed by the obligatory question No. 2: “Is she Catholic?”
Anyway, as to the Cuomo brothers, I share all of this to exert my right to make these observations and make fun of them, based on my own Italian bona fides. And though at least one Cuomo doesn’t like comparisons to The Godfather, the one that haunts me is that opening line in this article: “We have newspaper people on the payroll, don’t we?”
A fictional Michael Corleone asks that question, but the scene strikes me as far too real in the case of Andrew Cuomo. Actually, Andrew need not bother with the question. He already has the press — what Mark Levin in his book Unfreedom of the Press aptly calls the “Modern Democratic-Party Press.” Andrew already has the newspaper people.
The liberal media are Cuomo’s patsies. In fact, it’s more shameless than the Corleone situation. Andrew and staff need not huddle in a dark room to figure out which paisan on the payroll to strongarm at the New York Times. Nope, the press is already in Andrew’s pocket.
To liberal journalists, Andrew is like a don who gets whatever favorable coverage he desires. And yet, the beauty for the New York governor is that he need not even threaten them. Their enemy is Donald Trump. The Trumpster is their political gangster, like the head of the Barzini family — Emilio “The Wolf” Barzini — or perhaps the corrupt Irish cop (played by Sterling Hayden) who punched Michael in the jaw. They’re willing to take out the Donald at the knees.
They run cover for Cuomo. Andrew is as much godson to them as godfather — and “god” isn’t much of a stretch here. “Thank God for Andrew Cuomo,” gushes a reverential headline at CNN.com. He’s their anointed one.
It’s so egregious that Cuomo’s press pawns don’t even call him out when underscoring how terribly New York handled the outbreak of COVID-19. A remarkable piece in the New York Times, titled “Travel From New York City Seeded Wave of U.S. Outbreaks,” reported how the wave of infections in Andrew’s state “helped to fuel outbreaks in Louisiana, Texas, Arizona and as far away as the West Coast.” The Times quoted a Yale epidemiologist: “New York was the primary gateway for the rest of the country.” Another authority, David Engelthaler, head of infectious disease at the Translational Genomics Research Institute, told the Times, “New York acted as the Grand Central Station for this virus.” Yet another expert, Dr. Kári Stefánsson, founder of a leading genetics firm, agrees: “It looks like most of the domestic spread is basically people traveling out from New York.”
That’s pretty damning. The Times really went after Gov. Cuomo, eh? Not at all.
Amazingly, the article included only one mention of Andrew Cuomo — a quote from a spokesman shifting the blame to Trump and the feds: “Dani Lever, communications director for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, criticized federal authorities, describing an ‘enormous failure by the federal government to leave New York and the East Coast exposed to flights from Europe, while at the same time instilling a false sense of security by telling the State of New York that we had no Covid cases throughout the entire month of February.’ ”
That’s typical of Andrew and his media mafia. He makes bad decisions that help foster the disease, particularly among nursing homes, and then he snarls, growls, scowls, and lashes out at others, with his lackeys in the partisan press dutifully helping him point fingers elsewhere.
In fact, it’s still worse than that. Andrew’s journalistic cronies not only push favorable press, but they’re also pushing him to be president. In a surreal display, they try to paint the awful, angry Andrew as charming, soothing. His COVID-19 press conferences, I’m told by a friend from across the river in New Jersey, are seen by strange New Yorkers as akin to FDR fireside chats. Can you imagine? Andrew Cuomo and FDR? Now there’s a howler.
To quote Michael’s words to Tom and Sonny and Clemenza and Tessio, “That’s a terrific story!”
Sure is, and Andrew will take it. Mama mia!, the Corleones had to break legs to get stories like this. Andrew Cuomo’s media has made him an offer he can’t refuse.