Jeremy Paxman asks Silvio Berlusconi: 'Is it true you called Angela Merkel an 'unf**kable lard-a**e'?'
Italian billionaire denied vulgar slur against German Chancellor
Published 21/05/2014 | 08:03
Jeremy Paxman is seemingly determined to make the last month of his Newsnight residence the most explosive of his career.
Last night, he briefly rendered Silvio Berlusconi a mute with a probing question about an insult he allegedly hurled in German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s direction in conversation with a news editor back in 2011.
“Do you have a problem with Angela Merkel?” Paxman posed to the former Italian Prime Minister.
“Is it true you called Angela Merkel an ‘unf*ckable lard-arse?’”
Wide-eyed, dumbfounded and oddly gesticulating, Berlusconi, squinted, then put down his pen, stared at the table and glanced away.
Finally he put up his hands and said: “No, I have never had any problems with Angela Merkel. In 20 years of politics I have never insulted anyone and this accusation was made up by someone who wanted to turn Angela against me.
“I was not an easy person to deal with and I was quite tough. I had the courage to oppose some of the proposals made by Merkel and Sarkozy (on European austerity policies).”
The rest of the interview covered similarly controversial terroritory.
Berlusconi was found guilty of tax fraud in 2013, sentenced to four years in prison and ejected from his Senate seat as a result.
His conviction, however, came after years of successfully dodging corruption allegations and brushing off lewd sex scandals – one of which he was sentenced to seven years for having sex with an underage prostitute.
The latter is currently being appealed by Berlusconi’s lawyers, while the former sentence has been reduced to just one year of community service.
This year, he has returned to the very centre of Italy’s political stage. And just last week, his involvement with the Sicilian mafia more than two decades ago was confirmed.
But Berlusconi claimed the 'bunga bunga' parties were fabricated by his adversaries. “They manipulated reality. Luckily I am a strong person and I was able to take it,” he said.
The Italian billionaire also told Paxman that he hoped he would “go down in history as a father of the country.” The many accusations against him of corruption, bribery and tax fraud were entirely baseless, he insisted in the interview.
Meanwhile, Paxman announced he was leaving the current affairs show after 25 years as presenter at the end of April. His last episode will air in June.
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