Berlusconi puts his foot in it again

Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's gaffe-prone Prime Minister, today found himself accused of racism after calling Barack Obama "suntanned".

Speaking in Moscow at a joint news conference with President Medvedev, Mr Berlusconi said Mr Obama's election had been "hailed by world public opinion as the arrival of a Messiah".

He added: "I will try to help relations between Russia and the United States, where a new generation has come to power. I don't see problems for Medvedev in establishing good relations with Obama, who is also handsome, young and suntanned".

Mr Berlusconi said he had intended the remark as a compliment and those who failed to understand this were "imbeciles".

Earlier Mr Berlusconi, 72, had said he would be in a position to offer Mr Obama advice on politics because of his age and experience. The Italian leader himself boasts a perma-tan, and has had plastic surgery in an attempt to make him look younger.

Dario Franceschini, a centre left deputy, called on Mr Berlusconi to apologise to Mr Obama and to avoid embarrassing Italy in future with remarks "in bad taste".

He said the flamboyant Italian leader and media tycoon "forgets that his words affect the image of our country in the world". He added: "To say that the US President is young, good looking and suntanned will sound offensive to many and charged with dangerous ambiguity."

Walter Veltroni, the opposition leader, said: "A statesman cannot allow himself to make cabaret jokes while abroad. Berlusconi is seriously damaging the image and dignity of our country." Massimo Donadi of the centre left Italy of Values party said Mr Berlusconì's "unhappy" remark had exposed the centre right's "creeping racism".

Mr Berlusconi's previous gaffes include remarking to businessmen on a trip to the US that Italy was a great country to invest in "because we have fewer Communists nowadays and beautiful secretaries, superb girls".

Meeting the Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen in 2002, Mr Berlusconi described him as "the best-looking Prime Minister in Europe" and suggested he should have an affair with his wife, the former actress Veronica Lario.

In 2005 Helsinki demanded an explanation when he said he had used "playboy tactics" to persuade the Finnish President Tarja Halonen to back Italy as the site of the European Food Safety Authority.

Source: The Times

Vocabulary Practice:
Here are my definitions of words from the above text, followed by an example sentence. (This is something you should be doing with new words an expressions). Complete the sentence with the word in its correct form.
  1. adjective. Some people become this after being in the summer sun. eg Everyone around me was _____. I was the only burnt one.
  2. noun. This is something that you say, giving your opinion about something. eg Many people were upset by the _____ that the politician made about immigrants.
  3. verb. This means to support someone or something with money or words. eg I need someone to _____ me when I go to the boss with my ideas.
  4. adjective. This describes something that causes strong feelings. eg When he gave the speech his voice was _____ with emotion.
  5. verb. This means that you have or own something that you are proud of. eg His house _____ a swimming pool, gym and it even has a cinema.
  6. noun. This is something that you say to someone to express your admiration. He is always giving her _____  about her hair and her clothes.
  7. noun. This is something which you say or do that is an embarrassing mistake or impolite. eg He made a _____ when he asked the woman if the boy was her grandson. She is only 40.
  8. verb. To say a person is similar to someone or something in a very positive way. eg He is being _____ the Picasso of his time.
  9. when added to a noun this means that you experience a problem more often than normal. eg I'm really accident-_____. I'm always cutting myself or falling over.
  10. adjective. used to describe confident behaviour that is intended to be noticed. eg The popstar was well known for his ______ lifestyle as much as his music.


Jose Luis said…
I don´t understand why italians elect Berlusconi. In my opinion, Berlusconi is racist, chauvinist and stupid. He has put his foot many times.
Graham said…
This is the third time that the Italians have elected Berlusconi. I think that, on the whole, democratic countries have leaders that they deserve.

In my opinion, Italians tend to be racist, so it is hardly surprising that they vote for someone like Berlusconi.

I also think that the average Italian is dishonest or at best, untrustworthy.

Berlusconi is a reflection of Italian society. He has been involved in umpteen corruption scandals.

I don't agree with you that he's stupid. He's a billionaire and is apparently a self-made man.

I doubt that this will be the last time that he PUTS HIS FOOT IN IT.

Remember that languages and nationalites have capital letters!