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Berlusconi irks opposition with Obama "tan" comment
September 28, 2009 / 2:43 PM / 8 years ago

Berlusconi irks opposition with Obama "tan" comment

<p>Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (L) greets U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama as they arrive at the Phipps Conservatory for an opening reception and working dinner for heads of delegation at the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, September 24, 2009. REUTERS/Jim Young</p>

ROME (Reuters) - Italy’s opposition newspapers criticised Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Monday for again calling U.S. President Barack Obama “suntanned” even though he caused a political storm when he first said it last year.

At a rally on Sunday night Berlusconi said: “I have to bring you some greetings, greetings from a man, what is his name, what is his name -- just a minute it was someone with a tan -- Barack Obama.”

He then added: “You won’t believe it but they went together to the beach to get a tan because even his wife is suntanned.”

Berlusconi had just returned from the G20 summit in Pittsburg where he met the Obamas and Italian newspapers noted that she only shook his hand while she kissed other leaders.

L‘Unita, the newspaper of the main opposition party, the Democratic Party, put the comments on its front page with a photograph of Michelle Obama.

“He makes us look ridiculous before the whole world,” the newspaper said, adding that the comment was “a racist gaffe.” The left-leaning La Repubblica said it was a “reckless comment.”

Berlusconi was also criticised by Italy’s only black parliamentarian Jean Leonard Touadi, who is of Congolese origin.

“By repeating these quips that are out of place, the prime minister continues to damage the image of Italy,” he told the Italian news agency from Washington, where he was meeting black members of the U.S. Congress.

Berlusconi first got into hot water over Obama last November when, during a trip to Moscow, he called the then president-elect “handsome, young suntanned.”

The next day in Brussels, when an American reporter asked whether he would apologize to Obama, the prime minister told the reporter he was worthy of a place on his list of “imbeciles.”

Berlusconi is no stranger to gaffes and controversial comments. In 2003 he likened a German member of the European Parliament to a Nazi camp guard and in 2005 he suggested that he had wooed Finnish President Tarja Halonen to ensure her backing for Italy to host the European Food Safety Authority.

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