The Morning Jolt


Hong Kong Protests Heat Up, Chris Cuomo Melts Down

Riot police stand outside a branch of the HSCB bank during clashes with protesters in Hong Kong, China, August 11, 2019. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Pro-democracy protests at the airport in Hong Kong continue into their second day, CNN host Chris Cuomo is caught on video ranting at a man who called him “Fredo,” and Joe Biden revels in social-media attention — but most of it is negative.

Hong Kong Airport Protests Continue into Their Second Day

The Hong Kong airport is suspending check-ins and canceling flights for the second consecutive day as pro-democracy demonstrators swarm the departure and arrival areas at the airport for a sit-in. The New York Times has the details:

Hundreds of demonstrators occupied parts of Hong Kong International Airport’s departures and arrivals halls on Tuesday, with some using luggage trolleys to block travelers from reaching their departure gates. The Hong Kong Airport Authority closed check-in services in the late afternoon, and it advised all passengers to leave as soon as possible.

It was the second day in a row that demonstrators had seriously disrupted operations at the airport, one of the world’s busiest. On Monday, protesters effectively shuttered it after storming the arrivals and departures halls. As flight cancellations piled up on Tuesday, a few scuffles broke out between protesters and travelers.

The sit-in began in a quieter fashion over the weekend, when a smaller group of protestors gathered in the arrivals area without disrupting services. But after police used tear gas against demonstrators in a train station on Sunday evening — deemed a violation of international standards by the United Nations Human Rights Office — the sit-in grew exponentially, to the point where it now has blocked regular airport operations for two days.

Hong Kong police have used tear gas against protestors already this summer, and reports note that they’ve also deployed rubber bullets and beanbag rounds to force them out of the streets. Authorities in Hong Kong, meanwhile, say that protesters are guilty of launching bricks and gas bombs at police officers.

Though similar pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong have been taking place since late 2014, they began to intensify again this June after leaders proposed legislation that would allow individuals to be extradited to China. Opponents of the bill argue that it would endanger critics of the Chinese government in Beijing, who would be vulnerable to the human-rights abuses of the harsh Chinese legal system.

Carrie Lam, Hong Kong chief executive, tried to assure protestors earlier this summer that the bill would not extend to free-speech issues. But her efforts to pacify them failed, and despite saying she wouldn’t do so, Lam ultimately suspended the bill in mid June. Early last month, she proclaimed the legislation “dead,” though she still won’t commit to fully withdrawing it.

According to the Washington Post, the pro-democracy movement now has five demands for Hong Kong’s government: “to withdraw the extradition bill; to officially retract descriptions of the protests as a ‘riot;’ to drop charges against protesters; to launch an investigation into police force during the protests; and ‘universal suffrage,’ which would allow Hong Kong voters to directly pick their leaders rather than the current process that includes Beijing’s involvement.”

This video of protestors in the airport singing an anthem from the musical Les Miserables — a track the Chinese government blocked from streaming services on the mainland — is worth watching:

‘I Know It Was You, Fredo’

A video surfaced yesterday evening, showing CNN anchor Chris Cuomo launching into a profanity-ridden tirade after an unidentified man approached him in a bar and apparently referred to him as “Fredo,” a reference to one of Vito Corleone’s sons in the movie The Godfather.

Cuomo, son of former New York governor Mario Cuomo and younger brother of current New York governor Andrew Cuomo, responded by telling the man, “You call me ‘Fredo,’ it’s like I call you punk bitch, you like that?” and saying he would “throw him down these stairs.”

“Are any of you Italian?” Cuomo asked the men around him. “It’s an insult to your people. . . . It’s like the n-word for us.” As the video circulated yesterday evening, though, commentators generally agreed that Italian Americans don’t regard the name “Fredo” as that kind of insult, but rather that it’s often used to refer to the less intelligent of two brothers, as in the movie the name comes from.

It appears that Cuomo himself didn’t always consider the reference to be highly insulting, or at least that he wasn’t always willing to get in a confrontation over it. Late last night, Donald Trump Jr. shared a video of CNN commentator Ana Navarro on “Cuomo Prime Time” in January, in which she used the name “Fredo” to describe him. “He didn’t even make the cut that his brother-in-law and sister did to be part of the Oval Office and the White House staff,” Navarro said of Trump Jr. “Daddy kept Fredo back home.” Cuomo didn’t push back.

But the CNN anchor found support in some unlikely places last night. Fox News host Sean Hannity insisted that Cuomo shouldn’t apologize but was the one who “deserves the apology.” Meanwhile, short-lived White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci said he was “very proud” of Cuomo because “this happens all the time” and “it’s quite racist.”

For his part, CNN spokesman Matt Dornic backed Cuomo in a statement on Twitter yesterday evening: “Chris Cuomo defended himself when he was verbally attacked with the use of an ethnic slur in an orchestrated setup. We completely support him.”

Perhaps Cuomo was right to be incensed at the unnecessary public attack, but the comparison to the n-word seems a little far-fetched.

Joe Biden Is Getting Lots of Attention — But Is It the Kind He Wants?

The former vice president and frontrunner in the Democratic presidential primary might be glad that he’s dominated the field in social-media interactions over the last couple of months. But he should be a little less thrilled about the fact that most of the buzz has been fueled by a series of gaffes. Axios has the details from Newswhip data tracking interactions for 2020 candidates:

Articles about Joe Biden generated 3.8 million interactions on social media last week — more than that of any other candidate since June — but they were overwhelmingly on stories about his recent blunders. according to data from NewsWhip provided exclusively to Axios. . . .

Among the 100 stories about Biden that generated the most interactions (retweets, likes, comments, shares) on Facebook and Twitter last week, 67% of those interactions (1.78 million) were on stories about his gaffes.

The 1.78M interactions over the gaffes alone were higher than the interactions on the coverage of all of Biden’s 2020 rivals except Beto O’Rourke last week.

At the Iowa State Fair, Biden made more than his share of mistakes. He noted, for instance, that “poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids.” He told reporters that he had been vice president at the time of last February’s mass shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school. And, for the second, time, he confused former British prime minister Theresa May with another former prime minister, Margaret Thatcher.

His mistakes haven’t been fatal, and as the most recognizable candidate with the best claim to being a successful moderate option, Biden has a leg up on the competition. But a series of mistakes like this give his opponents a lot to work with.


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