CNN Anchor Chris Cuomo recalled his own immigrant roots Thursday in responding to President Donald Trump's vulgar comments disparaging immigrants from "shithole" countries, saying he himself remained "profoundly connected" to his roots, as a second-generation American.
"We do come from the hard-hit places," said Cuomo, speaking on CNN's "Prime Time." "The shitholes, as our president likes to say."
Cuomo said his own grandparents came from a country -- Italy -- that was once considered a "shithole" by people like the President.
Italians as 'other'
A large number of Italian immigrants began arriving to the US in the late 1800s.
According to author Ed Falco, hostility toward Italian immigrants in the 19th century is instructive to an America that remains suspicious of new arrivals. The largest mass lynching in US history took place in New Orleans in 1891 and it was Italian-Americans.
After nine Italians were tried and found not guilty of killing a police chief in New Orleans, a mob dragged them from the jail -- along with two other Italians being held on unrelated charges -- and lynched them all. The lynchings were followed by mass arrests of Italian immigrants throughout the city, and attacks against Italians nationwide.
"By the 1920s, pseudo-scientists and polemicists in the 1920s popularized the notion that Italians were a separate race from Anglo-Americans," according to Smithsonian Magazine.
Anti-immigrant sentiment continued with the passing of the Immigration Act of 1924, which restricted many Italians and Jews from entering the the US.
'Telling the truth'
"Our unity is forged in opportunity -- it is laced with dreams of a better life for our families," Cuomo said on Thursday.
Cautioning viewers against turning to anger, Cuomo advocated instead for "telling the truth."
He directly addressed President Trump, asking him to forget this "harshness" that plays to a small base of supporters in favor of appealing to what he called "sweet strength."
"America's greatest strength is, and has always been, its diversity," he said.
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