“Mafia heir warns ISIS to stay away from New York—but slams ‘Hollywood gangsters’ De Niro and Pacino for failing to ‘stand up’ to the terrorists” is how the ever-subtle Daily Mailput it. The Russian government–funded outlet RT, in an early version of the story that got more than 56,000 Facebook likes, quoted Gambino at length: “The world is dangerous today, but people living in New York neighborhoods with Sicilian connections should feel safe,” he said. “We make sure our friends and families are protected from extremists and terrorists, especially the brutal, psychopathic organization that calls itself the Islamic State.”
Strong words. Viral words, even. But where’d they come from? RT cites (but doesn’t link to) a Reuters piece that supposedly in turn quotes an NBC News interview. But that Reuters article is actually just a November 19 press release, and the video embedded in it is a 2012 interview Gambino did to promote his book Prince of Omerta. To make matters more muddled, he was actually speaking to the hosts of Good Company, a local Cleveland talk show, and the conversation in the YouTube clip never touches on the Islamic State. (The YouTube clip is apparently mislabeled.) If Gambino appeared on NBC News recently, we couldn’t find that video.
So where did those quotes in the press release that spread far and wide come from? To clear things up, VICE called Joseph Savoy, a friend of Gambino’s who was listed as the contact on the press release. He wasn’t sure how that old 2012 video clip got involved, but confirmed that the quotes “came from Giovanni directly” and “that’s how he feels.”
Attribution issues aside, Gambino seems to be enjoying the attention. Even if that NBC News interview referenced in the first line of the press release never happened, his quotes were picked up by media outlets all over the world, to the point where he’s now being invited to expound upon his views. On Monday, Gambino was a guest on Michael Savage’s right-wing radio show, Savage Nation, where he said, “We have to stand up together to fight this monster [ISIS],” and claimed the Islamic State is scared to take action in the US because “the Sicilians would take action right away.”
Gambino also spread a version of the story—suddenly popular again in Republican circles—that American Muslims cheered after 9/11.
“When the Twin Towers went down you had everybody from Bay Ridge in Brooklyn celebrating in the streets,” Gambino told Savage. “I live in Bay Ridge, I saw it with my own eyes. The cops were protecting them.”
The press release says that Gambino “has fostered relationships with major movie producers, and he is on his way to building a highly respected career in Hollywood.”