Who Was Fredo in 'The Godfather'? Explainer After Chris Cuomo Equates Name to N-Word

CNN anchor Chris Cuomo took massive offense to being called, "Fredo," a reference to The Godfather's Fredo Corleone, the weakest of three brothers, who ultimately betrays his only living brother.

On Sunday, Cuomo was called "Fredo," during a confrontation with a heckler, a name that the CNN host characterized as an "Italian aspersion," and equated to the N-word. He reiterated that it was an insult to Italian people and threatened to throw the heckler down the stairs.

While some criticized Cuomo for the behavior and relating being called "Fredo" to the N-word, his network, and Fox News' Sean Hannity defended the CNN host. Hannity posted on Twitter that the heckler was "being a jackass" in front of Cuomo and his family and said the CNN host was the one who deserved the apology.

"Chris Cuomo defended himself when he was verbally attacked with the use of an ethnic slur in an orchestrated setup. We completely support him," CNN said in a statement.

The Godfather, one of the most iconic film franchises in history, chronicles the lives of the members of the Corleone family, a fictional Italian organized crime family. Don Vito Corleone, the head of the family, has a daughter, Connie, and three sons – Sonny, the oldest, Fredo, the middle son and Michael, the youngest.

Sonny is fatally shot at the Causeway and Vito later names Michael as his successor, causing tension between him and his older brother, Fredo. Vito never explicitly says why he bypassed Fredo for the top position, but it's largely believed it was due to Fredo being weak.

the godfather chris cuomo fredo corleone
In "The Godfather," Fredo Corleone is considered the weakest of the three brothers and ultimately betrays his younger brother, Michael, causing his death. Paramount Pictures

This weakness is displayed numerous times throughout the film, especially during the pivotal moment when Vito is near-fatally shot. While picking out fruit at a stand, Vito is gunned down and instead of returning fire, Fredo, who was with him at the time and terrified, drops his gun.

Later in the film, while in Las Vegas, Mo Greene, a casino owner, slaps Fredo in public and when Michael calls Greene out for the behavior, Fredo defends Mo, prompting Michael to utter the iconic line, "Don't ever take sides with anyone against the family, again."

During the second film, The Godfather Part II, Fredo is approached by a rival mobster and offered compensation to provide special assistance in dealing with Michael. After discovering that Fredo betrayed him, Michael confronts his older brother while the two are celebrating New Year's in Havana, Cuba.

"I know it was you, Fredo, you broke my heart. You broke my heart," Michael tells his brother.

Back in the United States, Michael issues orders that Fredo is not to be harmed while their mother is alive and after her death, seems to forgive his brother, mostly at the urging of his sister Connie. However, while the two are at Lake Tahoe, Al Neri, the bodyguard of Michael, fatally shoots Fredo on the lake while Michael watches from the window.