The wife of Italy's former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi demanded a public apology from him on Wednesday for sexist quips that she said were "damaging to my dignity," in a bitter front-page letter to a leading newspaper.
Berlusconi told some women at a TV awards dinner last week that "if I wasn't already married I would marry you right away," and "with you I'd go anywhere," she said in the letter.
Veronica, Berlusconi's second wife and mother of three of his children, said the comments belittled her and that she only decided to take her marital spat public after failing to win an apology in private.
"These are affirmations that I see as damaging to my dignity, affirmations that ... cannot be reduced to jokes," wrote Veronica, a former actress. "To my husband and to the public man I therefore ask for a public apology, having not received one privately."
The letter, a huge embarrassment to Berlusconi, was given extra sting by his wife's decision to publish it in Italy's top left-leaning La Repubblica newspaper, which is sharply critical of the leader of the centre-right political opposition.
Repubblica splashed it across the top of the front-page.
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Berlusconi's spokesman was not immediately available for comment. But Italy's richest man told one interviewer in comments also published on Wednesay that he was grateful his wife "has never made a fool out of me."