New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) used a racial slur in a radio interview Tuesday while discussing racism against Italian Americans.
“They used an expression that southern Italians were called — quote unquote, pardon my language, but I am just quoting the Times — ‘nigger wops,’ N-word wops, as a derogatory comment,” he said in a conversation with Alan Chartock on WAMC in Albany, referring to a New York Times article about racism against Italian Americans in the 19th century.
Cuomo’s comments were part of a tangent during an unrelated question. Earlier in the interview, he discussed racism and stereotypes against Italian Americans, after being asked about Columbus Day, which many Italian Americans see as a day of pride. There have been growing calls to change the holiday to Indigenous Peoples’ Day to honor Native Americans who were killed and whose lands were pillaged by European colonizers in the Americas.
While acknowledging that Native Americans “have been abused” and affirming his support for commemorating Indigenous Peoples’ Day, he said the holiday and monuments for the explorer contain “a broader symbolism” for Italian Americans.
For example, he said the Christopher Columbus statue in New York City’s Columbus Circle, which many activists have called to remove, “was put up at a time when the Italian Americans were being abused.”
When asked if he believes there is still prejudice against Italian Americans, Cuomo emphatically said “yes” multiple times.
The governor then referred to several examples — including his brother, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, who recently got into an altercation with a man who mocked him as Fredo, John Cazale’s hapless character from “The Godfather.”
“It’s like the ‘N-word’ for us,” the younger Cuomo told the man.
A spokesperson for the governor declined to comment on or further clarify his direct use of a racial slur, referring back to the Times article.