The New Yorker marked the conclusion to the Sopranos with a ground-breaking cover of Tony Soprano. What would Joseph Mitchell, Dorothy Parker, and William Shawn think. As the epic crime saga winds to a close, I couldn’t help but muse on the potential political implications of the series. In addition to the first candidate with a parent from Africa, the first woman and the first Mormon (well, maybe second if you include Orrin Hatch), this features the first Italian-American candidate for president.
Giuliani is a classic crime-fighter. Among fictional characters his resume more resembles legendary crime-buster Eliot Ness than Soprano or any other crime figure. Nevertheless, Anthony Tamburri of the Calandra Institute tells me that much of America still perceives Italian-Americans as having ties to organized crime despite the evidence.
I wanted to ask prominent Italian-Americans about this. I found my way to the last Italian-American to have his name raised in connection with the presidency, Mario Cuomo. Cuomo told me some interesting things. First, he recalled being invited to a private screening of “The Godfather” held at Gracie Mansion during John Lindsay’s mayoralty. Cuomo declined Lindsay’s invitation. He told me he has never seen The Godfather or The Sopranos. “Children and dimwitted people will watch it, and some people will get confused and think that’s the way Italians are.”
At my request, he also discussed his role in an episode that many recall as reflecting anti-Italian bias in the political realm. This is when Gennifer Flowers, an alleged Clinton paramour who had taped a conversation with the Arkansas governor, contended Cuomo had some “Mafioso major connections” to which Clinton replied “he acts like one”. If Clinton had made a similar statement about African Americans he never would have become president. Clinton patched up differences with Cuomo who ultimately made the speech at the DNC in 1992 nominating the Arkansan.
You can read my piece here.