There’s an old John Mulaney bit that’s made the rounds on Twitter today. The comic relays getting chastised by a network executive for writing a joke with the word “midget.”
“He said, ‘You can’t use midget. Midget is as bad as the N-word,'” Mulaney recounts. “First off, no. No, it’s not. Do you know how I know it’s not? Because we’re using the word midget, and we’re not using the N-word. When comparing the badness of two words and you can’t say one of the words, that’s the worst one.”
It’s a good bit, and apparently one that CNN anchor Chris Cuomo has unfortunately never seen before. The buff Cuomo brother has come under fire for a filmed tirade of him lambasting a heckler deriding him as a “Fredo.” The anchor called it as bad as the N-word, and CNN has stood behind him for defending himself “when he was verbally attacked with the use of an ethnic slur in an orchestrated setup.”
CNN haters have rightly criticized the absurd idea that this reference to the dopey Godfather brother was intended to impugn Cuomo’s Italian ethnicity rather than his follies. But lost here is the more important lesson of CNN’s defense: Public figures in a private capacity deserve not to be heckled or threatened in civil society, especially in front of their children.
Based on the available reporting, the video seems to have been prompted by a right-wing troll who accosted Cuomo at a Shelter Island bar while the anchor was on vacation. The unidentified man, who presumably staged the encounter, then sent the video to a right-wing YouTube channel.
It’s wrong to aggressively confront a public figure in a private capacity, especially if it’s with the sole intention of filming a provocation. It’s one thing to politely voice a concern or complaint with someone if they seem willing to engage with a stranger in their personal time. It’s entirely another to harass them while they’re on a family vacation.
We saw how the Left treated Ted Cruz and Tucker Carlson, and we were all outraged, weren’t we? If Cuomo was with his wife, or worse, with his children, then he had every right to stand up for himself. No, he should not have escalated the conflict with violent rhetoric. No, he should not have couched his defense of himself with a bogus spin on “Fredo” being as bad as the N-word. But Cuomo was right to be livid and he had every right to punch back.
Late last year, Tucker Carlson’s daughter was viciously harassed in a country club by a left-wing troll represented by Michael Avenatti. Many in the media uncritically reiterated the aggressor’s claims that Carlson’s rightful pushback was “assault.” Then, when antifa protestors stormed Carlson’s home, the same CNN journalists who claimed that “we may never really know what happened” with regards to Jussie Smollett’s hate crime hoax equivocated and nitpicked about the attack, implying that a rightly enraged Carlson was intentionally lying about it.
Bad faith actors outright excused the attack.
Time and time again in the past two years, we’ve seen Trump administration members such as Ivanka Trump and Sarah Huckabee Sanders harassed or even chased out of restaurants. Illiberal leftists didn’t just defend such incivility. They did so with the full knowledge that these encounters occurred in private, apolitical places in front of the subjects’ children.
Don’t stoop to their level.
Cuomo’s rhetorical self-defense may have gone overboard in the heat of the moment. But he deserves some leniency, given the circumstances. Whatever gripes you may have with public figures, they deserve a private life and the same respect with which you would treat any other stranger within civil society.