Berlusconi accused of planning publicity stunt

ROME — Reported plans by Silvio Berlusconi to field attractive TV starlets as candidates for elections for the European Union parliament in June are triggering anger from his wife, who has blasted the mogul-turned-premier’s possible electoral ploy as “shameless trash.”

Veronica Lario, a former actress, voiced her outrage over reports that Berlusconi, who owns top Italian broadcaster Mediaset, was lining up at least four young TV showgirls to run for the European parliament and compared her husband to a Roman emperor.

“Somebody has written that this is all for the entertainment of the emperor,” Lario said in a statement to Italian news agency ANSA.

“I agree. What emerges from the newspapers is shameless trash, all in the name of power.”

Lario lashed out after reports that Berlusconi’s conservative Freedom Party would be placing Angela Sozio, a busty redhead and former Big Brother contestant; Barbara Matera, a Miss Italy contestant and model; and TV drama starlets Camilla Ferranti and Eleonora Gaggiolo, on its European elections ticket. They have all appeared on Mediaset shows.

“The impudence and shamelessness of power offends the credibility of all (women), damages women in general, and especially those who have struggled to defend their rights,” Lario lamented.

“I want to make clear that my children and I are victims and not accomplices in this situation. We must bear it and it causes us to suffer,” she added.

Lario, who before marrying Berlusconi in 1990 appeared in several low-budget movies, including Dario Argento slasher “Tenebrae,” is Berlusconi’s second wife. They have three children.

Reaction from Berlusconi, who was in Warsaw on a state visit, was that he regretted that his wife “believed what she read in the papers.”

A spokesman for Berlusconi’s Freedom Party said that the starlets had indeed attended a crash course in politics for their prospective European elections candidates, but called their actually being on the ticket an “urban legend.”

Berlusconi has recently fueled this type of speculation saying that there was no reason that showgirls should be ruled out from running for the European parliament.

Friction between Berlusconi and his wife over the sensitive issue of his flirtation with starlets, and their presence in his party’s political ranks, surfaced two years ago when Lario wrote to leading newspaper La Repubblica to complain about her husband paying embarrassing compliments to former Mediaset showgirl Mara Carfagna.

Lario in that case promptly received a public apology from Berlusconi. But that did not hamper the political career of Carfagna who is now Italy’s minister for equal opportunities.

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