Berlusconi's top 10 gaffes and pranks
The Daily Telegraph counts down its favourite Berlusconi moments
Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s prime minister, prides himself on his ability to connect with ordinary people. But he has developed a reputation after making a string of gaffes on the world stage. After his latest mis-step at the G20 conference in London, which earned him a rebuke from the Queen, we count down our favourite Berlusconi moments.
1 April 2009
Silvio Berlusconi missed a symbolic Nato photo and a ceremony for fallen soldiers because he was too busy talking on his mobile phone.
2 April 2009
Days earlier, he was accused of embarrassing his country by yelling a greeting at US President Barack Obama and earning a rebuke from the Queen during an official G20 photo shoot in London.
Footage of the Italian prime minister becomes a YouTube hit in Italy, with one clip posted on the website titled “Bothersome Berlusconi, reproached by the Queen.”
3 March 2009
The 72-year-old self-made billionaire said his response to the global economic crisis was different to that of President Obama because “I’m paler”.
“I’m paler because it’s been so long since I went sunbathing. He’s more handsome, younger and taller,” said the media mogul.
Also accused of being racist, or at least gauche, in November 2008 when he hailed then President-elect Obama as “handsome, young and also suntanned”.
Mr Berlusconi accused his critics of lacking a sense of humour, and a few days later repeated the observation about Mr Obama’s mixed-race skin tone.
4 January 2009
Mr Berlusconi caused outrage by saying that although he was considering deploying 30,000 troops to Italy’s cities, there would never be enough soldiers to protect Italy’s many “beautiful girls” from rape.
5 January 2007
Mr Berlusconi said to a former showgirl and men’s magazine model, Mara Carfagna: “I’d go anywhere with you, even to a desert island. If I weren’t already married, I would marry you straight away.”
His wife, Veronica Lario, reacted by writing a letter published on the front page of La Repubblica newspaper calling for a public apology. She duly received one. Mr Berlusconi later made Miss Carfagna his equal opportunities minister.
6 July 2003
Caused a political row at the start of Italy’s EU presidency by referring to a German MEP, Martin Schulz, who criticised him for his alleged links to the mafia, as a “concentration camp guard”.
He told the German: “I know that in Italy there is a man producing a film on Nazi concentration camps - I shall put you forward for the role of Kapo (a guard chosen from among the prisoners) - you would be perfect.”
He later claimed he had been joking and had been thinking of a character from the popular TV series Hogan’s Heroes, set in a Second World War POW camp.
Offended China by declaring: “Read the black book of Communism and you will discover that in the China of Mao, they did not eat children, but had them boiled to fertilise the fields.”
Later conceded: “It was questionable irony ... because this joke is questionable.”
8 Boasted that he had had to “dust off my playboy charms” to convince Finland’s female prime minister to set up the EU Food Safety Authority in Parma, Italy, rather than in Finland. Added the observation that: “Parma is synonymous with good cuisine. The Finns don’t even know what prosciutto is.”
9 He advised investors in New York to relocate to Italy because the secretaries were better looking than their American counterparts.
“Another reason to invest in Italy is that we have beautiful secretaries... superb girls.”
He also told the New York stock exchange: “Italy is now a great country to invest in... today we have fewer communists and those who are still there deny having been one.”
10 During a group photo of EU leaders in 2002 he made the Italian horned “cuckold” gesture with his hand behind the head of the Spanish foreign minister, suggesting he was being cuckolded.
Mr Berlusconi said he was “just joking” and was trying to amuse a group of boy scouts who were nearby, but the gesture was felt to be out of place at an international summit.