Italy’s Junior Culture Minister Sets Off Uproar With Lewd, Sexist Remarks at Museum Event

Art critic and undersecretary to Italy’s Ministry of Culture Vittorio Sgarbi sparked outrage in the country after a video of Sgarbi speaking at a summer launch event for Rome’s National Museum of 21st Century Art (MAXXI) in late June showed the official using explicit language and bragging about his sex life, Euronews reported Tuesday.

While on stage, Sgarbi, who serves in the government of right-wing populist prime minister Giorgia Meloni, answered a phone call from an unidentified man whom he called a “nobody” and a “cuckold.” Later on the call, which according to a video posted to Twitter could be heard through Sgarbi’s microphone on stage, the junior minister gloated about his promiscuous past, saying he’d had sex with “nine [women] a month.”

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Sgarbi also commented on the sex life of recently deceased Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, which he described as “tragic” because Berlusconi, who’d garnered a lascivious reputation both in and out of office, had slept with “fewer than 100 women in his life.”

Though the event was held on June 21, the 70-year-old minister’s comments only recently garnered press after a letter castigating Sgarbi —signed by 44 of the MAXXI’s 49 employees, most of whom were women— was published by Italian newspaper La Republica Monday.

In response, opposition politician Carlo Calenda called Sgarbi a “disgrace,” leading Italian culture minister Gennaro Sanguiliano —Sgarbi’s superior— to write a letter to MAXXI’s president firmly stating that sexually crude language was “inadmissible in all contexts,” particularly “in a cultural space and from someone who represents institutions.”

According to Euronews, Sgarbi’s loose lips have often lead to headlines. On Father’s Day this year while a guest on the Italian talk show Domenica In Sgarbi “joked” that “”girls born in 2000 [are] whores,” despite the fact that his own daughter was born in 2000.

Sgarbi, who has often been at odds with the public throughout his career and who late last year butt heads with Sangiuliano over cultural policy, doesn’t seem worried about his detractors. 

“It’s freedom of speech,” he said of the comments, accoring to Euronews.


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