Video: Italy fixated on sex scandal

updated 2/1/2007 8:07:46 PM ET 2007-02-02T01:07:46

Former Premier Silvio Berlusconi, challenged in an open letter by his wife over flirtatious comments he reportedly made to other women, publicly apologized to her Wednesday, saying he never meant to hurt her dignity.

“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,” said the letter from Berlusconi released by his Forza Italia party.

“Your dignity has nothing to do with it. I treasure it as a precious good in my heart, even when I make carefree jokes,” said Berlusconi, 70.

His wife, Veronica Lario, wrote an open letter published Wednesday in La Repubblica — a left-leaning daily and a fierce opponent of Berlusconi — to voice her complaints over what she said was behavior that damaged her dignity as a woman.

“If I weren’t married, I would marry you immediately,” Berlusconi told one woman at a VIP party after a TV awards ceremony broadcast by one of his channels, according to reports widely carried in the Italian press.

He reportedly told another, “With you, I’d go anywhere.”

The famously private Lario wrote in the open letter: “I see these statements as damaging my dignity.”

“To both my husband and the public man, I therefore demand a public apology, since I haven’t received any privately,” she wrote. “I have faced the inevitable contrasts and the more painful moments that a long conjugal relation entails with respect and discretion.”

Lario, 50, said her husband’s comments were “unacceptable” and could not be reduced to mere jokes.

Questionable comments in the past
Berlusconi, who has boasted of his success with women in his youth and says he has a sense of gallantry, has a reputation for making comments that some women find inappropriate.

In a separate interview, Berlusconi said his wife is a “special woman.”

“Veronica has been an absolute passion; when we met, she made me lose my mind,” he told the women’s magazine A, which released excerpts of the interview Wednesday.

“She has been and is a wonderful mother. She has never embarrassed me, never,” Berlusconi said. “And she is so lenient. ... What more could I want?”

Lario largely kept out of the public eye during Berlusconi’s five-year premiership, which ended with the defeat of his conservative coalition in April elections.

But she occasionally expressed positions that were not in line with her husband’s, such as defending pacifists protesting the war in Iraq, which Berlusconi supported.

Berlusconi and Lario were married in 1990, but had been together for a decade before then. A former actress, she is Berlusconi’s second wife. The two are rarely seen together.

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