Berlusconi’s Talk-Show Rant: Just Good Politics

My piece on Berlusconi’s talk-show call in has just been published by Time.

The caller didn’t behave the way one ordinarily does when dialing into a late-night political talk show. But then, he wasn’t an ordinary caller. “I’ve been watching a broadcast that’s disgusting, that’s being run in a way that’s despicable, vile, repugnant,” Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi told host Gad Lerner during a live television show on Tuesday night. “I’ve heard theories that are distorted and far from the truth. I’ve seen a reconstruction of reality that’s the opposite of the truth.”

Lerner stood his ground but didn’t have many chances to get a word in during Berlusconi’s two-minute rant about what was being discussed on the program: the allegations that the Prime Minister had hosted elaborate sex parties at which he paid to sleep with young women, including a 17-year-old nightclub dancer. When Berlusconi insulted the show’s guests, Lerner called him “vulgar and rude.” And he responded to the Prime Minister’s attacks by referring to the ongoing court process, in which Berlusconi has refused to participate. “Why don’t you go to the judges, instead of delivering insults?” Lerner asked.

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Berlusconi Sex Scandal: Ruby Tells Her Story

Time has just ran my piece on Ruby’s side of the story in the Berlusconi sex scandal.

Karima El Mahroug, the woman at the center of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s latest sex scandal, says that when she was 9 years old, she was raped by two men, then told by her mother to keep quiet because she feared how Karima’s father would react if he discovered she wasn’t a virgin. When Karima was 12, her father spilled a pan of boiling oil on her after she told him she had converted from Islam to Catholicism.

In a late-night interview on the largest of Berlusconi’s three television channels on Wednesday, El Mahroug, now 18, parted her hair to show the scars from the oil burns and explained how she had developed a “parallel life” after leaving her house shortly afterward — one in which she told friends she was older than she really was and went to Italy to study. “In front of other people, I’ve always maintained the image of a Wonder Woman, capable of conquering the world, without showing these tears that I’m finally able to show,” she told Alfonso Signorini, host of the Italian talk show Kalispéra!

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Did Italy’s Berlusconi Pay for Sex?

My piece on the latest accusations against Silvio Berlusconi have just run in Time.

For Silvio Berlusconi, the news couldn’t come at a worse time. The day after Italy’s constitutional court struck down parts of a controversial law that had provided him immunity from his ongoing criminal trials, prosecutors confirmed on Friday, Jan. 14, that the embattled Prime Minister was under investigation for allegedly paying for sex with a 17-year-old girl last year.

The allegations are by far the worst the scandal-ridden Berlusconi has faced during a long history of battles with Italy’s legal system — which he has characterized as a campaign of political persecutions by left-wing judges. They include charges that the 74-year-old Prime Minister abused his position when he called a police station last May and intervened to free the girl in question, Karima El Mahroug, after she was detained on suspicion of theft.

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