Berlusconi Makes Public Apology to Wife

By ALESSANDRA RIZZO
The Associated Press
Wednesday, January 31, 2007; 3:05 PM

ROME -- It was domestic drama at its best _ the kind Italians love _ a scorned wife airing her dirty laundry for the world to see.

In this case it was Veronica Lario, the usually private wife of former Premier Silvio Berlusconi, who chose to make her anger over his flirtations public in an open letter in a daily newspaper.

By day's end, the 70-year-old billionaire _ Italy's richest man _ was figuratively on his knees.

"Dear Veronica, here's my apology," Berlusconi said in his letter, made public by the conservative leader's Forza Italia party. "Forgive me, I beg you. And take this public show of my private pride giving in to your fury as an act of love. One of many."

Lario, 50, had voiced her complaints Wednesday in La Repubblica, saying her dignity had been offended by her husband's behavior. Adding insult to injury, Lario chose a left-leaning newspaper that is a fierce Berlusconi critic.

She was reacting to comments that Berlusconi reportedly made last week during a VIP party after a TV awards show broadcast by one of the media baron's Mediaset channels.

"If I weren't married, I would marry you immediately," the 70-year-old Berlusconi told one woman, according to reports widely carried in the Italian press. "With you, I'd go anywhere," he reportedly told another.

"I see these statements as damaging my dignity," Lario wrote. "To both my husband and the public man, I therefore demand a public apology since I haven't received any privately."

"I have faced the conflicts and painful moments of a long conjugal relationship with respect and discretion," she said. "Now I write to state my reaction," Lario said, calling her husband's comments "unacceptable" and saying they could not be written off as mere jokes.

Berlusconi is not new to making remarks that some women find inappropriate. In 2005, when he was premier, he joked that he had to use "all my playboy skills" to convince Finnish President Tarja Halonen, a woman, that the European Union food agency should be assigned to Italy, not Finland.

He likes to recall his success with women as a young man, and to show off what he says is his gallantry.

Citing the demands of his busy life combined with his "playful, self-ironic and sometimes irreverent personality," Berlusconi admitted in his letter that he had been "a bit irresponsible."


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