Madonna has weighed into the Italian political fray by launching a stinging attack on Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, saying the scandal-bound premier is "unsuited to govern Italy".
The Italian-American singer and actor made her remark in an interview at the Venice film festival where she presented W.E., her much-panned biography of Wallis Simpson. Her comments were labelled as "offensive" and "communist" by irate Berlusconi supporters following their publication yesterday in Oggi magazine.
"What do I think about Berlusconi?" said the 53-year-old. "I wouldn't like to talk about it now. But The Economist already said everything, didn't it?" referring to the publication's 9 June cover in which a picture of grinning Mr Berlusconi accompanied the headline, "The man who screwed an entire country" – a not-too-subtle double reference to Italy's teetering economy and his alleged penchant for prostitutes.
Madonna said she would return to discuss the state of Italy after she'd finished promoting her film. But she could not resist adding her two cents worth, opining that gaffe-prone Berlusconi was "unsuited to govern Italy". It was enough to enrage Berlusconi loyalists, including Carlo Giovanardi, an undersecretary in the Prime Minister's office. Demonstrating a level of skill with press soundbites on a par with the Queen of Pop's prowess in the director's chair, he said Madonna's opinion "counts for nothing, because Italians know that she's a multi-millionaire and that people are not going to be influenced by these rich and spoilt would-be lords".
Then realising, perhaps, that this might not be the best line of attack given the multi-billionaire premier, with assets of €5bn, was one of Italy's richest men, Mr Giovanardi changed tack, attacking her support of homosexual causes. But as the Italian media continued to run with Madonna's comments, another PdL party politician, Daniela Santanché, said the star had "insulted millions of Italians". Another PdL MP, former pop star Gabriella Carlucci, suggested that Madonna had employed a "communist press office".
The Prime Minister was not at hand to rebuff Madonna's remarks. He was knee-deep in meetings in Brussels, trying to convince senior EU officials that his government's drawn-out and chaotic attempts to impose a €45bn (£39bn) austerity package were about to finally bear fruit.
Sceptics, noted however, that Mr Berlusconi's trip enabled him to avoid an embarrassing interrogation by magistrates, who suspect he was blackmailed by the shady businessman Gianpaolo Tarantini, charged with procuring prostitutes for the premier's notorious parties in Sardinia and Rome.
But the consensus among most Italians was best represented by blogger Guia Soncini, who said that Madonna had merely stated the obvious – and probably managed to divert attention from her gaffe last week involving a hydrangea, when she took to YouTube to issue a bizarre mock apology to the flowers she confesses to loathe. Perhaps she has more in common with Mr Berlusconi than she cares to think.