Italy's Silvio Berlusconi Delights Italians, Infuriates Wife

For more than 10 years, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's verbal gaffes have made headlines in Italy and around the world.

The 70-year-old TV magnate and politician is known for his flamboyant ways and Casanova-style manners. Not embarrassed to show that he takes great care of his image, he has admitted to getting a face-lift and hair transplants to keep a youthful appearance.

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Despite his behavior landing him frequently in the tabloids, and drawing censure from Britain's Queen Elizabeth, most Italians seem to approve of the man. One notable exception, however, is Veronica Lario, aka Mrs. Berlusconi.

Lario recently went public with her anger after hearing that her husband's political party was planning to nominate a group of buxom TV starlets as candidates in June's European Parliament elections. Writing an e-mail to Italy's ANSA news agency, Lario said, "The impudence and shamelessness of power offends the credibility of all (women), damages women in general and especially those who have always struggled to defend their rights."

"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."

Berlusconi shot back saying the reports were made up by members of the opposition and left-wing journalists. When the official list was finally made public, one of the alleged showgirls, a onetime Miss Italy contestant, was included. Candidates for elections in Italy have always come from a varied cross-section of Italian society and in the past have included famous porno-stars, footballers, journalists, magistrates and transsexuals.

In her statement to ANSA, Lario also responded to reports that her husband had attended a late-night birthday party for an 18-year-old female friend in Naples. "It surprised me very much," she said. "Also because he never came to the 18th of any of his children, even though he was invited."

Berlusconi said that he had simply dropped by to "raise a glass" to a "friend's daughter."

Berlusconi and the Mrs. Fighting in Public ... Again

It's not the first time Berlusconi has fallen afoul of his wife. Two years ago, she published a letter to him in an Italian paper. In the letter, she publicly scolded him for his flirtatious behavior and the disrespect it showed toward her and her children. The letter received wide media coverage, and Italians seemed fascinated -- for a while -- with the unexpected glimpse into this couple's private life. Berlusconi was forced to publish a letter of apology.

But do Italians care anymore? Filippo De Angelis, a newspaper seller, shrugged his shoulders and said "bah! This is old stuff. She's done it before. Who cares? Everyone knows those two don't get on."

Marco Guerrieri, an accountant in Rome told ABC News today: " I really haven't followed this stuff. I don't care about it. We've heard it all before. ... Berlusconi is just fueling his populist image. It's all publicity and all done for the media."

On a phone-in program Wednesday on RAIRADIO Tre one woman expressed her incomprehension of Lario's reaction and directed her comment to Lario: "Do what all women should do if treated in this way ... leave him."

Many Italians, including several politicians argued on TV that the couple's public spat had nothing to do with politics and was of no interest to Italians.

Berlusconi is reportedly on his way to Milan today to sort things out with his wife.

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