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Letta accuses Grillo of barbarism as tension soars

Furore over attacks on House Speaker Boldrini

04 February, 10:23
Letta accuses Grillo of barbarism as tension soars

(By Paul Virgo) (ANSA) - Rome, February 3 - Premier Enrico Letta accused Beppe Grillo of barbarism on Monday following an aggressive campaign of insults and protests by the comedian-turned-politician's anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S).

There have been chaotic scenes in parliament over the last week, including scuffles and an incident of a male MP striking a female M5S lawmaker in the face, following high-voltage protests by the movement over measures it objects to.

The Internet-based M5S, which rode a wave of disenchantment at an established political class it blames for corruption and economic stagnation to bag around a quarter of the vote in the 2013 year's general election, last week presented a petition for President Giorgio Napolitano to be impeached.

They are also calling on Lower House Speaker Laura Boldrini to resign, arguing that, like Napolitano, she is not an fair arbiter but favours the established parties.

Grillo, M5S members and their supporters intensified their attacks on Boldrini after she stopped filibustering by them to enable a government decree to pass before a deadline.

Amid the storm, Grillo wrote "What would happen if you found yourself in a car with Boldrini?" on his Facebook page and posted a video of a young man in a car with a cardboard cutout of the speaker, giving her a piece of his mind. This was followed by a slew of verbally abusive and sexist comments, some of them calling for her to get beaten up and forced to prostitute herself, others for her to be gang raped by "Africans" and other minorities.

Boldrini, a member of the Left, Ecology, Freedom (SEL) party , said the comments were made by "potential rapists" and amounted to instigation to violence. Grillo has also come under fire for asking allegedly hostile TV host Daria Bignardi "what's it like to be married to a murderer's son" on his blog.

Bignardi's husband Luca Sofri is the son of leftist ex-militant Adriano Sofri, convicted for ordering the murder of a police commissioner in a case that inspired Nobel prize-winner Dario Fo's best-known play.

After serving his sentence in a case many leftists considered a miscarriage of justice, Adriano Sofri continued his career as an intellectual, writer and journalist, with son Luca following in his footsteps. "It's scandalous, I cannot refrain from commenting on Grillo's crazy remarks against Daria Bignardi and her husband," said Letta during a visit to Doha. The premier said that, faced with the "race towards barbarity taken by Grillo, apparently without end, there can be no tolerance towards this kind of politics".

Some political pundits have said the M5S's actions are an attempt to regain the limelight, which of late has been taken up by the PD's energetic new leader Matteo Renzi.

Renzi has reached a deal with ex-premier and centre-right leader Silvio Berlusconi on a new election law to replace the dysfunctional old system that was declared unconstitutional last month and he is working to push through other much-needed institutional reforms to make Italy easier to govern. Renzi, the 39-year-old mayor of Florence, said Monday that the aggressive tactics were being used by Grillo because "he's in trouble". Five M5S MPs, meanwhile, distanced themselves from the attacks on Boldrini. ''We firmly stigmatize every form of violence and aggression, both verbal and physical,'' MPs Lorenzo Battista, Laura Bignami, Monica Casaletto and Luis Alberto Orellana said in a statement. ''I feel I should apologize to Boldrini because writing such things evokes scenarios I don't like at all,'' MP Tommaso Currò told a local radio station. Another M5S official, Senate spokesman Claudio Messora, issued a tepid apology for a tweet that added fuel to the fire.

''Dear Laura, relax...even if we were all potential rapists, you're in no danger at all!'' Messora tweeted Sunday.

''I did not mean to offend Laura Boldrini. If it happened because of one of my jokes, I'm sorry. Now let's get back to business'', Messora tweeted Monday.