Scantily clad in a black cocktail dress and stiletto heels, speaking ungrammatical Italian in a Milanese accent, and sporting barbed-wire tattoos on her arm and wrist, the woman who host Daria Bignardi described as “uncle Silvio’s favorite niece” appeared on La7– the top-rated Italian private television network among those not owned by her family – one month before an election in which her uncle is running again for the country’s top job.
(Video below in Italian, courtesy of La7)
Fears from her uncle’s political opponents that her live appearance, her first on national TV, would turn into a free commercial for Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party, quickly dissolved. Even under Bignardi’s trademark softball questioning, Berlusconi did not acquit herself brilliantly.
Luna Berlusconi is one of the four children of Paolo Berlusconi, the younger brother of 77-year-old Silvio, who ran Italy for almost 10 years between 1994 and 2011 at the head of several of the country’s typically short-lived governments (but he actually holds the record for the longest-serving Italian government at 4 years, 11 months).
“Our family is very closely knit,” she said. How closely, inquired Bignardi? “We meet for Christmas,” Berlusconi replied, to chuckles from the studio audience. The coherence of her answers improved little from there.
When she said, “I believe in the value of marriage,” that may have sounded unseemly coming from the mother of two children from two different husbands, something that’s still rare in Catholic Italy.
Describing what it was like to grow up as the niece of the prime minister and daughter of his wealthy, high-profile brother – a lesser tycoon than Silvio, but still the publisher of a major daily newspaper, Il Giornale – Luna revealed that at age 19, in 1994, she had a sort of existential crisis as her uncle was first elected, and her father was arrested on corruption charges. “What was happening was too much for me. So I ran away,” she said.
Well, not quite. “My father put me on a plane” to the U.S., she explained, and “would fax me lengthy letters every day.” Not exactly the life of a teenage runaway. As for what she did in America, “I worked in an office, for three hours a day, making photocopies. I made them well. You become good at it.” At that point, even the normally warm and fuzzy Bignardi (who did not ask what office that was, in what city, or for what salary) had to look down to hide her laughter.
“Making photocopies isn’t easy, especially when they ask you to make double-sided ones, or to make them bigger or smaller. I became specialized in photocopies. It was a beautiful experience,” Berlusconi went on, without a trace of irony in her voice.
Later, she went to work in the family’s media empire, until she landed a position on the board of the company that publishes Il Giornale, a right-wing daily that leans to the lurid, and whose Editor-in-Chief, Alessandro Sallusti, was sentenced last year to 14 months in prison for libel (his sentence was later commuted to a 15,000 euro fine).
But what about her uncle? At the age of 76, he is currently a defendant in a trial focusing on his infamous bunga-bunga parties, accused of patronizing a prostitute who was a minor. Should he retire? Luna Berlusconi didn’t hesitate before answering that no, he shouldn’t: “The people need him again.”