In Silvio Berlusconi’s words: Offensive quotes and gaffes

The tycoon and former Italian prime minister offended several world leaders, including Obama and Merkel, and often insulted marginalised groups.

Silvio Berlusconi during the 2022 electoral campaign in Milan [File Photo: Piero Cruciatti/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images]

Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s former prime minister who has died after several bouts of ill health, was renown outside politics for his sex and propriety scandals and business empires.

A flamboyant figure until the end, he was rarely out of the headlines.

Here are some of the 86-year-old’s memorable quotes and gaffes:

‘Only Napoleon did more than I have done’: On politics

“I am the Jesus Christ of politics,” Berlusconi told his supporters in 2006, according to Italian media. “I am a patient victim. I put up with everyone. I sacrifice myself for everyone.”

He also compared himself to the French leader Napoleon Bonaparte that same year.

“Only Napoleon did more than I have done,” he told an Italian TV talk show. “But I am definitely taller.”

‘Putin sent me 20 bottles of vodka’: On Russia and Ukraine

In October, despite anger in the West over Russia’s war in Ukraine, Berlusconi stood by his old friend President Vladimir Putin and said: “Putin for my birthday sent me 20 bottles of vodka and a very sweet letter. I replied with bottles of Lambrusco and an equally sweet letter.”

Separately, Berlusconi also reportedly admonished Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni for meeting with Ukraine’s leader, Volodymyr Zelenskyy after blaming Kyiv for the Russian invasion.

Goading and insulting world leaders

During a group photograph at an informal European Union summit in Spain in 2002, Berlusconi raised two fingers behind the head of the Spanish foreign minister, Josep Pique, in the traditional Latin gesture for a cuckold.

In 2005, Berlusconi said he had tried to charm Finland’s president, Tarja Halonen, to give up her country’s claim to host the new European Food Safety Authority.

“I had to use all my playboy tactics, even if they have not been used for some time,” he said.

In 2010, then-German Chancellor Angela Merkel was also insulted by Berlusconi when he called her an “unf******e lardarse”, according to Italian newspapers.

He also told German lawmaker and Social Democrat Martin Schulz: “There is in Italy a man producing a film on the Nazi concentration camps. I would like to suggest you for the role of kapo. You’d be perfect.”

A kapo was a concentration camp inmate who was given privileges for supervising prisoner work gangs.

Racist jibe

The Italian leader’s interactions with Barack Obama started when the United States senator won the presidential election in 2008 and Berlusconi called the victor “handsome, young and also suntanned”.

Offensive in a crisis

While visiting survivors of an earthquake in the central Italian region of Abruzzo in 2009, Berlusconi said of the people in emergency tents: “They should look at it as a weekend of camping.”

Upsetting Muslims and Jews

In 2001, Berlusconi upset the Muslim world when he said the West “should be conscious of the superiority of our civilisation”.

He said that while the West has a value system “that has given people widespread prosperity in those countries that embrace it and guarantees respect for human rights and religion, … this respect certainly does not exist in the Islamic countries”.

In 2010, the Vatican’s official newspaper condemned the Italian politician after he made an anti-Semitic “joke”.


At a motorcycle industry show in Milan in 2010, he said it was “better to be a beautiful girl rather than to be gay”.

“As always, I work without interruption, and if occasionally I happen to look a beautiful girl in the face – it’s better to like beautiful girls than to be gay,” he said.

Football and misogyny

Berlusconi owned the Italian football club AC Milan from 1986 to 2017.

In 2006, when Ukrainian striker Andriy Shevchenko moved to play for Chelsea, Berlusconi blamed Shevchenko’s wife.

“Shevchenko’s departure? It was neither wanted by us nor caused by the will of the player. He had to to submit to the wishes of his wife. And we know that wives are often like kapos to whom we cannot say no.”

In 2022, the Italian leader told players of his Monza football team that he would bring “a bus of whores into the locker room” if they managed to beat a top Serie A rival.

When AC Milan lost to Bologna in the 2008-2009 season, he commented on the club’s coach Carlo Ancelotti’s weight and said: “Ancelotti is chubby enough already. He has eaten so many panettones [type of Italian bread]. In any case, he can still have it this year.”

Source: News Agencies