The Betrayal

For 30 years, as Vince Fumo ruled Philadelphia politics, we knew how he operated: You were either on his side or he’d try to destroy you. The behind-the-scenes run-up to his federal trial this month reveals something new: His family works in exactly the same way

MINI-VINNIE asks me to be nice to him.

This is his first interview with a reporter in his 39 years. He is shockingly sweet and open and warm. The Vince of Lightness, the Vince of Peace. He has short brown hair and a layer of stubble flecked with white. His glasses are black-rimmed, like an architect’s.

“Nobody’s telling my side of the story, or my family’s side of the story,” he says over lunch on Spruce Street. And to hear him tell it, his father has always been misunderstood, starting with his image as the Vince of Darkness (“It’s like, come on. He’s just a guy. He’s doing his job”) and extending to the perception that he was an unloving dad. “My father might not have taught me how to throw a football, but when we wired our Shore house and I was 12 years old, I was his assistant.” (The Vince is a polymath: he flies his own plane, brokers his own real estate, and is a licensed electrician.)

Not that Vincent II hasn’t butted heads with his father. In what was “a weird period in my life,” he stopped talking to Vince in 2000. During that time, Christian got in touch and invited him to get a cup of coffee at Cosi. He says that Christian told him, “Yeah, we’re gonna ruin [Vince’s] career. We’re gonna get him. Do you wanna get involved in this, too? You must hate him.” Vincent II adds, “I didn’t think about it much at the time. … He’s like, ‘I’m talking to people.’ Who could he be talking to?” Then, some months later, Vincent II says, he had dinner with the four exiles in Whitemarsh: his mother, her husband, Nicole and Christian. “There they are, talking about, ‘Oh, when your dad’s out of his job … ’” (None of them recall this dinner.)

In FumoWorld, mothers and sons part company over alliances. As Vincent II cleaved closer to his father, partly because of the wedding flap and partly because Vince was beginning to accept that video editing was a legitimate career — “It’s like, holy shit, this is a skill” — he mulled over the Cosi meeting and subsequent dinner and began to get suspicious. Then the indictment came, and Vincent II heard “convincing rumors” that his stepfather, Joe Meo, in his capacity as an attorney, had been helping Christian talk to the government. Last year, Vincent II called his mother to ask if it was true. He says she denied it. “She point-blank lied to me,” Vincent II says. Since then, he and his mother haven’t spoken. (Susan says that until her son “chose to get into ‘the bunker’ with Vince,” she and Vincent II “enjoyed a perfectly fine relationship.”) Essentially, Vincent II alleges a plot — a get-Vince conspiracy, hatched by his own blood relations. “They’re all, like, really religious, all about good and evil,” says Vincent II. “I can see how they just worked off of each other.” Responds Susan, “We are ‘all Republicans’ and very proud of it. Republicans embrace personal responsibility; they do not shirk it or blame others or, worse yet, blame ‘society.’”