Silvio Berlusconi declared yesterday that it was "better to be passionate about beautiful women than be gay", as he sought to defuse new sex and corruption allegations.
The Italian premier dismissed claims that he abused his office and pressured police into releasing a teenage Moroccan lapdancer who was accused of stealing €3,000. Karima Keyek, known as Ruby, was released from Milan police headquarters on 27 May this year without magistrates' permission.
"I have a gruelling work schedule and if I happen to look pretty girls in the face now and then, it's better to be passionate about beautiful women than to be gay," Mr Berlusconi said at a public appearance in Milan. His remarks were met with some embarrassed titters by his audience – but derision by opposition MPs.
They said the 73-year-old Prime Minister's latest comments meant that he had now managed to offend everybody. Mr Berlusconi's repertoire of sexist, anti-Semitic and racist remarks are already well known.
In a special video message to the Prime Minister, Nichi Vendola, the charismatic, and gay governor of the Puglia region, said Mr Berlusconi's "sense of humour and his constant show of virility" were "pathetic and embarrassing".