Ignorant Lout! Italy Abuzz After Silvio Berlusconi’s Shocking TV Tirade

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Italy's Prime Minister Berlusconi gestures during his final news conference of the year in Rome

REUTERS/Tony Gentile

Did the Italian prime minister slip on some sleaze and hit his head?

It’s a question all of Italy is asking following Silvio’s live television outburst Monday evening. Berlusconi, who faces ongoing allegations that he had relations with an underage prostitute, phoned in to a chat show on which guests were discussing the scandal.

(More on TIME.com: See pictures of Silvio Berlusconi and the politics of sex in Italy.)

“I’ve been watching a disgusting show, conducted in a despicable, vile and repugnant way,” Berlusconi told Gad Lerner, the show’s host. “The reality that has been represented here is the opposite of the truth and I feel insulted. I know what I’m saying, you don’t.” He also urged a political ally in the audience to leave “this incredible TV brothel.”

The 74-year old prime minister denied any wrongdoing, and stood up for Nicole Minetti, a 25-year old councilor who allegedly recruited prostitutes for him. He pointed that Minetti speaks fluent English (her mother is British) and holds a degree with honors, and painted her as the classy foil to the “so-called ladies” on the show’s panel.

(More on TIME.com: Did Italy’s Berlusconi Pay for Sex?)

Lerner, a left-leaning journalist, shot back. “You are an ignorant lout!” he said. “That’s enough insults. If you are so confident of yourself why don’t you speak to the prosecutors in the case?” Thus far Berlusconi has refused to obey a summons by Milan prosecutors who have placed him under investigation for using his office to cover up the alleged scandal.

The accusations are nothing new. In May 2009, Berlusconi’s wife Veronica Lario filed for divorce after it emerged that Berlusconi had attended the 18th birthday party of a lingerie model who calls him papi. “I cannot stay with a man who frequents minors,” Lario wrote in a letter to La Repubblica. The frequency of Silvio’s gaffes and outbursts make them no less shocking. In November 2010, after a teenage Moroccan belly dancer claimed to have witnessed sex parties in his home, Berlusconi defended himself by slurring homosexuals at a business meeting: “Better to have a passion for beautiful women than to be gay,” he said. (via Daily Mail)

(More on TIME.com: See Silvio in TIME’s list of the Top 10 celebrity break-ups of 2009.)