Italy’s premier Silvio Berlusconi today attempted to dismiss the continuing sex scandal surrounding him by insisting he never paid for sex because that would remove the “joy”.
Brushing off questions about any possible resignation, Mr Berlusconi insisted that he has been Italy’s best premier and said he was considering suing the woman at the centre of the affair.
Prostitute Patrizia D’Addario claims she tape-recorded Mr Berlusconi during a night together at the premier’s home.
Newspaper L’Espresso obtained copies of the tapes, including one in which a man it identified as Mr Berlusconi is heard telling D’Addario to wait for him on the big bed while he showers.
Mr Berlusconi said today he was considering taking legal action. He said he had been the “victim of an attack by a person who wanted to create a scandal”.
At a press conference with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero after an Italian-Spanish summit on Sardinia, he said he had never paid for sex.
“I say this also because, for those who love to conquer, the joy and the most beautiful satisfaction is in the conquest,” he said, as an expressionless Mr Zapatero looked on. “If you have to pay, I ask you, what joy is there?”
Mr Berlusconi has been under fire for months ever since his wife announced she was divorcing him because of his fondness for younger women. While polls indicate he still has the support of most Italians, the scandal has strained the conservative premier’s relations with the Catholic Church and a key political ally.
At the press conference, he was asked whether he might consider resigning given his battles with the Italian media over the sex scandal and the tensions with the church and Gianfranco Fini, who merged his right-wing National Alliance with Mr Berlusconi’s party earlier this year.
He boasted of his government’s longevity.
“I sincerely believe I have been the best (premier) that Italy has had in its 150-year history, and I base that on what I’ve done and what I’m doing,” he declared.
The scandal broke last spring, when the 72-year-old premier’s wife, Veronica Lario, said she was divorcing him, citing his presence at the 18th birthday party of a Naples model and his party’s lineup of TV starlets as candidates for European Parliament elections.
Mr Berlusconi said today that three candidates who attended a course his party offered had all been well-educated, multilingual, sophisticated women who were doing a fine job representing Italy in Europe.
After Ms Lario’s accusations, several young women including D’Addario went public with stories that they were paid to attend parties at Mr Berlusconi’s homes by a Berlusconi acquaintance, Gianpaolo Tarantini.
Mr Tarantini has apologised for creating a scandal for the premier. He says he reimbursed the women for travel and other expenses but that Mr Berlusconi never knew about it.