Women fight back against Berlusconi

He told Bindi, ‘You are more beautiful than intelligent’

Women fight back against BerlusconiItalian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has never been terribly discreet about his penchant for extra-marital amore. But here’s some sound advice from one of his colleagues, Italian senator Patrizia Bugnano, after the PM’s latest misstep: “Someone tell Berlusconi he is no George Clooney.”

The row began when Rosy Bindi, a member of the opposition Democratic party, appeared with Berlusconi on the late-night television show Porta a Porta to discuss an Italian court’s decision to revoke his executive immunity from prosecution—a move that could reopen a number of criminal cases against the PM, including alleged tax fraud. During the show, Berlusconi told the matronly Bindi, “You are more beautiful than intelligent,” apparently taking a swipe at both her looks and smarts. (On the show, Bindi fired back: “I’m not one of the women at your disposal.”)

Giovanna Melandri, a colleague of Bindi’s, says Berlusconi’s latest remark sums up a more general “Berlusconi philosophy toward women.” It’s “pathetic,” charges Emma Bonino, vice-president of the Italian senate. “No political fight justifies such a second-rate, misogynistic insult.”

There are signs that Italian women are finally fed up. In a letter to La Repubblica, a number of Italian academics issued a call to action: “We protest against this cretinization of women, of democracy, of politics itself. This man offends women and democracy. Let’s stop him!” Nearly 100,000 women have signed a petition in protest of Berlusconi’s sexist on-air comment.

Berlusconi is unrepentant. He admits that he’s “no saint” when it comes to his personal life. But the prime minister is adamant that he’s the victim—not Bindi. At a press conference this month, he insisted: “I am without a doubt the person who’s been the most persecuted in the entire history of the world and the history of man.” For her part, Bindi is not looking for sympathy: “I have received no apology, and neither do I want one.”

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