It also frees me up to do a more detailed deconstruction of Cyril's ethnic slur.
To put things in their proper context, let's go back to the original reporting. Here's the set-up:
A simmering personal feud erupted again Tuesday on KQV Radio when Dr. Cyril H. Wecht accused Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. of prosecuting his family's political enemies.
The famous forensic pathologist lashed out at Zappala's grand jury investigation of state Sen. Jane Orie, R-McCandless, for campaign irregularities. Wecht said it closely resembles the investigation launched against him in 2005 by then-U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan, which he said was done at Zappala's behest.
During the interview, Wecht referred to FBI Agent Bradley Orsini, a lead investigator in the Wecht case, as Zappala's "goombah" and a "disgraced FBI agent." Orsini developed the search warrants used to seize records from Wecht's offices.
So in an interview where there was a complaint about the abuse of power of two Italian-American men, someone who isn't Italian used the term "goombah" to describe one of them. That's the context.
And yet, in his response, Cyril says:
I have made a serious effort to speak to many Italian-Americans over the past three weeks regarding the meaning of the word "goombah," which I recently used in a radio interview. In fact, a few friends asked their grandmothers, who were born in Italy, what their definition and societal understanding of this word is. Every one of these people -- professional, business, labor, academic -- responded the same way. They all utilize and accept goombah as an expression of close friendship, a warm greeting and sometimes even use it to greet a relative like a cousin.And then:
Anyone can state (whether candidly or disingenuously) what they believe a particular word or phrase means. Many words may strike different chords among various individuals, most often derived from some event or recollection from the past. Obviously, this is what Mr. DeAngelo has done in recalling a childhood experience with his father. While he has a perfect right to draw a semantic inference based upon such a personal incident, he has no right to publicly imply that I used the word goombah to suggest some kind of Mafia relationship between Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala and FBI Agent Bradley Orsini.I have to ask, first off, why he felt the need to check in the three weeks since the interview with his Italian American friends over the meaning of the word? Was the issue raised then?
In any event, this part is interesting as all the Italian-Americans I spoke to regarding the term, once I put it in context, agreed that it was a slur. Internally among Italians, it may be an expression of warm friendship etc, but when someone who isn't Italian uses the term looking to discredit someone who is, it's a slur.
Cyril goes on:No one who's been in the Pittsburgh area for any length of time can possibly question either Cyril's intellect or his command of the English language. And so I am surprised that he goes literal here. Any slur or insult is, once you look at it closely, a metaphor. If I were to call someone an asshole (insignificant or otherwise) I am not literally saying they are the opening at the lower end of the digestive tract through which solid waste is excreted, I am using a metaphor to show how disagreeable I find that person.
If I believed Messrs. Zappala and Orsini were Mafioso, I would have stated so. I used goombah to characterize exactly what I (and a respected dictionary) believe it to mean -- a warm friendship, some kind of personal relationship. That is exactly the kind of unholy alliance that developed between Mr. Zappala and Mr. Orsini, which was the original, major factor that resulted in an egregious, unjust 84-count federal indictment against me -- a five-year dramatic saga that extracted a very heavy toll from me, my wife and my children in many ways.
Cyril was not merely pointing out the warm friendly relationship between Zappala and Orsini. He was using a mafia reference to describe how two Italian American men "extracted a heavy toll" on him and his family.
And for the record, I am on Cyril's side regarding his complaint about USAttorney Buchanan's prosecution of him. It was an abuse of power, no doubt about that (so that'sat least two things we agree on, Cyril - Mary Beth Buchanan and Southern Connecticut Pizza. I am sure there are many more). I don't question his anger at Buchanan and by extension DA Zappala. From what I've read in the news, his anger is completely justified.
But that's not the point. The point is his use (and now his justification) of the term goombah.
You're not going to win this one, Cyril. You said it, it was an insult, and you should just apologize for your poor choice of words rather than trying to explain it away it with a roundabout discussion of how many trips you made to Italy and how many Italian friends you have and how none of them were offended by your use of the term.