The Year in Berlusconi Gaffes

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In February, Berlusconi's former lawyer, David Mills, was convicted of taking a bribe to withhold evidence in court to help the prime minister. At the time, Berlusconi had immunity from prosecution, but might still face the charge in court.



While at a reception with Queen Elizabeth II of Britain on April 3, Berlusconi screamed over her highness to get the attention of U.S. President Barack Obama. The Queen was not amused and asked, "Why does he have to shout?" Berlusconi maintains that this gaffe and others are completely made up by the hateful media.  "I have never made any gaffes, not even one," he has said.


Three days after unnerving British royalty, the Italian prime minister kept German Chancellor Angela Merkel waiting at the end of a red carpet while he talked on his cell phone. Footage from the incident became an Internet sensation. In Berlusconi's defense, he was chatting with the prime minister of Turkey about a diplomatic dispute.


Rounding out what might have been Berlusconi's worst week, on April 6, an earthquake hit Italy's Abruzzo region, killing 150 and leaving 17,000 homeless. Berlusconi, a perennial optimist, later said it need not be tragedy -- that those in emergency housing should see it as a "camping weekend."


In May, the prime minister's private life started to fall apart. His wife publicly criticized him for only appointing young, attractive women to government posts. He responded by publicly demanding an apology from her. She started divorce proceedings on May 3, citing his attendance of an 18-year-old's birthday party as the reason.


The teenager in question, Noemi Letizia, is a model of unmentionables. Berlusconi, age 73, said things never got "spicy" between them, whatever that means. Letizia did seem to enjoy the fame from her relationship, as she made frequent media appearances.



Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi came to power hoping to be the new Che Guevara, an idol for anti-imperialism; Berlusconi assembled a multi-billion dollar media empire. Gaddafi pays Italian women to listen to him talk about Islam; Berlusconi allegedly has paid Italian women to do things other than listen. Still, Libya, a former Italian colony, and Italy under Berlusconi have forged a new and somewhat controversial relationship. After attending conferences together in the spring, Berlusconi invited Gaddafi to Italy in June, much to the chagrin of human-rights groups.



Things most assuredly were "spicy" for Berlusconi in July, when Patrizia D'Addario, a former prostitute, said she had slept with Berlusconi -- on the night of Barack Obama's election, no less. She wrote a tell-all book, claiming Berlusconi was a great lover (gross) and that he detests the use of condoms (grosser). The book's name? Take Your Pleasure, Prime Minister (grossest). She said they danced to Frank Sinatra's My Way thereby fulfilling every Italian stereotype, ever. Berlusconi, who denies knowing D'Addario, said he never paid for sex: "I never understood where the satisfaction is when you're missing the pleasure of conquest."


The prime minister goes out of his way to be associated with Obama, screaming his name at a reception or jumping in a photo with him and striking a pose. In this photo, he appears to want more than a cordial handshake from the first lady. However two days after this photo was taken, he told a group of Italian conservatives that he was very happy to meet the first couple, adding that they are very tan.


October was another hard month for Berlusconi. On Oct. 3, a court ordered the media conglomerate Berlusconi owns to pay a rival over one billion dollars for lost revenue stemming from a 1990s bribery scandal. Then, on Oct. 7, the constitutional court stripped Berlusconi of his immunity from prosecution on numerous charges relating to corruption and bad business dealings. That means, in 2010, Berlusconi head to court for three trials -- adding to the seven charges he has already answered.


In early December, in the midst of a large government crackdown on organized crime, a mafia informant said Berlusconi was closely associated with the mob. The snitch told the story while testifying against the co-founder of Berlusconi's now-defunct political party Forza Italia.


Italy has been referred to as "the land feminism forgot." But in recent years, feminist opposition has been growing in Italy -- and centering on the prime minister. Take, for instance, "No Berlusconi Day," a protest on Dec. 5, during which tens of thousands of protesters descended on Rome. These protests went global; the rally above was held in Amsterdam.  


On Dec. 14, Berlusconi was struck in the face by model of a cathedral in Milan. Suffering a broken nose and broken teeth, a bloodied Berlusconi emerged from the car and craned his neck, as if looking for the assailant so he could fight him. He stayed overnight in a hospital for four nights after the attack.


If history shows anything, Berlusconi will assuredly try to use this assault as a way to crack down on protests, silence the media, and maybe try for immunity a third time. Berlusconi, who has referred to himself as Superman and Italy's best leader ever, is a deft manipulator of image and a marketing wizard, and will surely try to  turn a terrible attack into a political victory. Already, Berlusconi supporters are restricting opposition voices. 



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