Berlusconi and wife in spat over women politicians

Wed Apr 29, 2009 10:00am EDT
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By Philip Pullella

ROME (Reuters) - Italy's first family soap opera was back on the front pages on Wednesday after Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's wife said his party's selection of women to run in European elections was a "shamelessly trashy" process.

Veronica Berlusconi, who has publicly lamented her husband's eye for younger women in the past, also accused him of going to the birthday bash of an 18-year-old woman in Naples but not attending the coming-of-age-parties of his own children.

Veronica, 52, who rarely appears with her husband, said she agreed with Italian newspapers' descriptions of her husband's party's choice of female candidates as "entertainment for the emperor," in what newspapers saw as a reference to him.

The latest public clash between the Berlusconis, which dominated mainstream newspaper front pages along with swine flu and Fiat's rescue of Chrysler, follows a media debate over "starlets in politics."

"Women in Politics -- Veronica's Wrath," was the way La Stampa of Turin put it.

In an e-mail to Italian news agency Ansa, she praised politicians such as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and German Chancellor Angela Merkel and then added:

"But what's happening today (in Italy) behind a front of bodily curves and female beauty is grave." She added that it offended all women and particularly those who had fought in the "frontline" for women's equality.

Her 72-year-old husband, speaking to reporters during a trip to Warsaw, said he was sorry his wife had apparently believed "what she read in the papers" and added that it was all "a campaign (against him) hyped by the leftist press."   Continued...

<p>Silvio Berlusconi and his wife Veronica Lario arrive for dinner with U.S. President George W. Bush at Villa Madama in Rome in this June 4, 2004 file photo. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi/Files</p>