'Be a mom,' Rome mayoral candidate tells possible challenger

Rome candidate outrages Italy, then digs deeper

MILAN — Female politicians in Italy have expressed outrage after a Rome mayoral candidate advised a challenger not to join the fray because of her pregnancy.

Guido Bertolaso says possible challenger Giorgia Meloni “should be a mom” and not join the “fierce electoral campaign,” which would require her to take care of “potholes and dirtiness while she nurses.”

The comment has been derided as evidence of sexism in Italy, where female employment is among the lowest in the 34-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Lower house speaker Laura Boldrini called the remark “unacceptable misogyny. A former education minister, Maristella Gelmini, recalled an editorial in the Italian bishops’ conference newspaper, Avvenire, advising her to spend more time at home after she gave birth while in office.

Meloni, 39, has been tapped by the Northern League leader Matteo Salvini to challenge Bertolaso, Silvio Berlusconi’s candidate, as the two conservative leaders tussle for political dominance.

Berlusconi on Tuesday said Meloni shouldn’t run, describing the campaign as “difficult and challenging.”

Bertolaso, the former head of Italy’s civil protection agency, said he intended no offence — then dug himself deeper by contending he was speaking to Meloni “as if she were my wife.”

Meloni said she hoped to reconcile motherhood with work as many women do, but has yet to signal her decision whether to run.