Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was ridiculed after he promised players for the soccer team Monza—which he's owned since 2018—that he would "bring a bus of whores into the locker room" if they beat a top rival.
The populist political leader made the remark during the soccer club's Christmas dinner. A video published to social media quickly exposed him to heavy criticism online.
You can hear what Berlusconi said in the video below.
“I told the guys … now you will play Milan, Juventus. If you win against one of these top teams, I’ll bring a bus of whores into the locker room."
The misogynistic remark was greeted with laughter by the audience.
Berlusconi later doubled down in a post on Instagram calling his comment "locker room talk."
“Frankly I did not think, and I doubt anyone could imagine, that a simple ‘locker room talk’ comment that was a joke and clearly paradoxical, which I said to my Monza players, could spark responses that are as malevolent as they are banal and unrealistic."
“I feel sorry for these critics. Perhaps it is their absolute lack of humour that makes them so sad and also so gratuitously nasty in attacking those they consider to be enemies."
"But it is Christmas. So I wish them all the best too."
You can see his post below.
Berlusconi's justification for the joke as simple "locker room talk" is very much a callback to the same defense then-candidate Donald Trump used to describe his words in a now-infamous Access Hollywood tape in which he bragged about grabbing women without their consent.
His comments did not go over very well and he has been harshly criticized.
The 86-year-old Berlusconi is a billionaire media tycoon who served as Prime Minister across four separate governments. He was convicted of tax fraud in 2013 and subjected to a short-lived public service ban; he currently serves in the Senate.
His controversial comments were an unsavory reminder of the time he was accused and initially formally convicted of paying an underage prostitute for sex. She told authorities that Berlusconi had paid her $10,000 for parties at his private villas.
Berlusconi appealed a 7-year prison sentence and his conviction was overturned, allowing him to return to public office.