ROME (JTA) — One of Italy’s most prominent Jewish figures is at the center of the latest round of scandals surrounding Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Journalist, author and TV personality Gad Lerner, host of a popular late-night Italian TV talk show called "The Infidel" on the independent La7 channel, was berated live on air by the premier earlier this week.
Late Monday night, a furious Berlusconi called in to the show and let loose a barrage of insults against Lerner and the program, which had centered on Berlusconi’s allegedly improper relations with underage women. He blasted the show as "a disgusting program with vile, obscene, repugnant presentation. A bawdy-house.”
Berlusconi accused Lerner of “false, distorted suppositions, far from the truth” and defended his relationship with Nicole Minetti, a dental hygienist whom he launched into politics and who is now under investigation as part of the sex scandal inquiries involving Berlusconi. When Berlusconi insulted female studio guests as "so-called ladies," Lerner called him a "boor."
Lerner is well known as a writer and public figure on the political left. He has also written extensively on Jewish issues, including his search for family roots in Ukraine. His name appeared on a "black list" of influential Italian Jews posted earlier this month on the neo-Nazi Stormfront website.