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Political Profiling of Italian Americans an Alarming Trend, Reports Sons of Italy®

Press Contact: Diane Crespy, 202-547-8115

For Immediate Release:

WASHINGTON, October 17, 2002 - The media's fascination with "The Sopranos" and other mob shows has invaded the political arena to the detriment of Italian Americans in government, reports the Order Sons of Italy in America® (OSIA), the oldest and largest national organization in the country for men and women of Italian heritage.

OSIA cites an alarming trend in recent news stories that likens Italian American political figures to the fictitious Mafia characters and situations in such mob hits as "The Sopranos" and "The Godfather."

"This political profiling corrupts the democratic process as well as the rules of fair play," says OSIA Executive Director Philip R. Piccigallo.

In just the past six weeks, OSIA has found examples of the stereotyping of Italian American politicians in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Newsweek Magazine, and the New York Sun. Targeted were former New York gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo and U.S. Senator Robert Torricelli of New Jersey, whose withdrawals from their respective races were chalked up to being made "offers they couldn't refuse."

In its Oct. 14 issue, Newsweek offered up a two-page spread, "Tony and 'The Torch'" by Jonathan Alter, that reads more like a "Sopranos" script than a news article thanks to its liberal use of mob-speak (Torricelli "seemed likely to get whacked in November ... because when you 'rat out' New Jersey, the voters treat you like Big Pussy."). The article draws analogies between Torricelli's current political situation and the HBO series' main characters and plots.

In Maine, U.S. Congressman and gubernatorial candidate John Baldacci discovered a political opponent is airing a TV commercial that attacks Baldacci by using phrases from "The Sopranos" spoken with a "mob" accent. [See, "About Us," "Multimedia," "Commercials" for an on-line viewing.]

"It is what we have been saying all along," says Piccigallo. "It isn't 'just a movie' or 'only a TV show.' The line between fiction and fact has become dangerously blurred to the detriment of Italian Americans in public life. These events present irrefutable evidence of the very real damage stereotyping does to Italian Americans. Instead of telling Italian Americans to 'lighten up,' the press's reporting should clean up."

Established in 1905, OSIA has more than 575,000 members and supporters and a network of 700 chapters coast to coast. OSIA works at the community, national and international levels to promote the heritage and culture of an estimated 26 million Italian Americans, the nation's fifth largest ethnic group, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.