ROME (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s daughter has said she was amazed by the attention her father lavished on a teenage model, in a rare criticism of the scandal-hit leader by one of his children.
Barbara Berlusconi, 25, also told Vanity Fair that politicians ought to uphold the values they preach publicly in their private lives -- in contrast to Berlusconi’s allies who say his personal life has no bearing on his public role.
Berlusconi, 72, has denied an improper relationship with Noemi Letizia after showing up at her 18th birthday party with a 6,000-euro ($8,600) necklace gift, prompting his wife Veronica to seek a divorce over his womanizing.
When asked what she thought of the attentions her father had shown toward Letizia, Barbara said: “I was shocked. It’s something that has never been part of my life.”
“I have never frequented elderly men. I have no experience of such psychological ties,” she told the magazine.
Since the Letizia scandal, Berlusconi has also been fending off accusations of cavorting with escorts who were paid to attend his parties. He denies paying for sex but says he is “not a saint.”
“Political representatives that are called to govern well, make society prosper, are also held to safeguard the values they express, possibly raise them,” Barbara told the magazine.
“So I don’t believe a politician can allow a distinction between his public and private life.”
Barbara’s comments are another dent to Berlusconi’s image, with polls showing the summer of scandals has helped push down his popularity. But he still enjoys 49 percent approval ratings and a comfortable majority in both houses of parliament.
Barbara is one of three children Berlusconi has with Veronica. His two children from his first marriage hold prominent positions in his business empire. They rarely speak publicly but defended their father when the scandal first exploded in May.
Reporting by Deepa Babington; editing by Robin Pomeroy