Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who reveled in the glamour of meeting with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office in mid June, is now enjoying a much different limelight -- denying charges that he paid prostitutes to enliven parties at his homes.
From sage quotes made in advance of the G8 summit to be held in Italy in July, the 72 year-old national leader has been reduced to issuing denials to the Italian magazine “Chi” that he ever paid for sex, according to a report by CNN.
“I’ve never paid a woman. I never understood where the satisfaction is when you’re missing the pleasure of conquest,” Berlusconi told Chi.
The paid party girl scandal is just the latest episode in the saucy adventures of the popular prime minister. His wife of 19 years, Veronica Lario, filed for divorce in May, charging that her husband had “improper relations” with a young woman. She also lambasted him for attending the 18th birthday party of a TV actress and model, according to a UPI report.
Despite the tabloid tales, Berlusconi enjoyed a remarkable victory in provincial elections after Italians recently voted in the local contests and handed nine more provinces to his center-right People of Freedom party.
“It certainly helps to have the three largest private television networks and two of the three public networks at your disposal,” said Alexander Stille, author of the “The Sack of Rome,” according to a report in the U.K.’s Telegraph.
“There have been so many scandals surrounding Berlusconi in the past that the Italian public has collectively lost the gland that produces indignation,” explained Stille.
“He has succeeded in creating enough confusion in the public mind that they essentially discount any kind of moral or ethical consideration in judging him. He has been able to take advantage of a deep cynicism which goes back a very long way in Italian history -- the view that all politicians are crooked,” the author concluded.
Whatever the reason, Berlusconi consistency scores approval ratings of more than 60 percent.
Meanwhile, apparently leaving nothing to chance, the prime minister has been on the offensive, saying a model was paid to spread false accusations that he had prostitutes attend parties at his homes.
The model in question, Patrizia D’Addario, said last week that she and other women had been paid more than $1,000 to attend a party at Berlusconi's Rome home with other women. D’Addario also said she had secretly videotaped trysts with Berlusconi.
But Berlusconi is insistent that D’Addario had been paid “extremely well” to make false accusations against him, the BBC reported.
D’Addario denied the allegation.
At one point when asked by Chi magazine if he suspected D’Addario was “setting a trap” for him, he replied: “If I did, I’d leap a thousand miles away.”
The Spanish newspaper El Pais earlier in June published what it advertised were five exclusive photographs of wild parties at Berlusconi’s villa on the island of Sardinia. The photos, including one which showed scantily clothed women, were kept from the public forum by a judicial order after Berlusconi alleged an invasion of privacy.
Berlusconi’s public life has also had its colorful moments.
During the run-up to the 2008 Italian general election, Berlusconi claimed right-wing female politicians were better looking than their left-wing counterparts, according to CNN.
He has also complained that his role as prime minister can be a burden.
“I’m still doing everything that I’m doing with a great sense of sacrifice,” he recently told CNN. “I have to tell you I don’t like it.”
As unfortunate as it is at a personal level, he explained, he is the only leader capable of holding the center-right together.
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