ROME — Italian pubcaster RAI has come under a barrage of fire for ignoring the mounting sex scandal faced by prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, which now involves allegations that the media mogul turned premier slept with a paid female escort.
The latest developments in the scandal center around reports that a businessman, Giampaolo Tarantini, who is under investigation for corruption, recruited and paid beautiful women to attend parties thrown in recent months by Berlusconi in Rome and Sardinia.
One of these women, Patrizia D’Addario, who is described by the Italian press as a high-end prostitute, said she spent the night in Berlusconi’s Rome residence after a party on the night of President Barack Obama’s election victory, on Nov. 4. During her time with Berlusconi she reportedly wore a recording device, which has been turned over to prosecutors. Another guest at the party, starlet Barbara Montereale, said that D’Addario told her she had sex with Berlusconi.
Berlusconi has dismissed the reports — which have been making headlines in Italy and internationally — as “trash and lies.”
RAI’s flagship RAI-1 station and its RAI-2 channel have made no mention whatsoever of the escorts scandal in their news reports over the past few days. The gagging of the widely reported allegations by two of the country’s top TV news outlets prompted a heated outcry from Sergio Zavoli, the head of the parliamentary committee that oversees the pubcaster.
“RAI must absolutely regain its essential and crucial autonomy from outside interference,” Zavoli protested. The RAI commission topper has called an urgent meeting to “rewrite RAI reporting rules and make them finally binding.”
RAI-1 news editor Augusto Minzolini, recently installed by the Berlusconi government, has countered in a televised editorial that the swirling reports are mere gossip and that there is “no certain news.”
Berlusconi’s Mediaset, meanwhile, has also been keeping totally mum about the scandal, which instead is being covered daily by smaller generalist station La 7 and Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Italia paybox.
The scandal has been snowballing since Berlusconi’s wife Veronica Lario, a former actress, complained to local media last month about her husband’s fondness for young starlets, citing Berlusconi’s presence at the 18th birthday party of Neapolitan model Letizia Noemi when she announced she was divorcing.
While the mounting mayhem appears unlikely to topple Berlusconi’s goverment, the scandal is certainly tainting his image, especially internationally, ahead of the G8 summit Italy is hosting in July.
Franco-Tunisian film producer and media entrepreneur Tarak Ben Ammar, who is a close Berlusconi associate, told Corriere della Sera newspaper that what Berlusconi now needs is a new first lady. He urged Berlusconi to take his cue from French premier Nicolas Sarkozy’s marriage to model Carla Bruni.