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ROME – The Italian news magazine Panorama, among the centerpieces of Silvio Berlusconi’s media empire, was fooled by a satirical piece in The New Yorker, claiming the 76-year-old billionaire was mulling a run for elected office in New York City.
The Borowitz Report, created by comedian and author Andy Borowitz, skewers a different current event each week. In Monday’s column, the report said Berlusconi was considering a run for office after a poll showed his approval ratings were higher than those of some other New York office seekers.
Italy watchers got a laugh out of the report. But at least one major Italian media outlet, Panorama, the weekly news magazine Berlusconi controls, believed the story was true. The magazine published a version of the story on its website Tuesday under the headline “Crazy idea: Berlusconi as mayor of New York.”
Though the Panorama story has been edited since it was first posted, noting an element of “satire” in the column, the article remained on the magazine’s web site in the news section as of late Tuesday.
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The magazine did not appear to recognize the impossibility of the premise given that Berlusconi does not speak fluent English, is not a U.S. citizen, and has never been a resident of New York — or that he is currently under indictment in four separate trials in Italy. But the column’s made-up quotes from Berlusconi likely ring true to many of the former prime minister’s most enthusiastic supporters.
“In Italy, you make one little mistake, they throw you in jail seven years,” the column quoted Berlusconi as saying, in reference to last month’s verdict sentencing Berlusconi to seven years and jail and a lifetime ban from politics on charges of abuse of power and paying a minor for sex.
“New Yorkers are much more forgiving,” Berlusconi said, a wink toward scandal-ridden figures including former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer and former Congressman Anthony Wiener, both of whom are mounting political comebacks in New York.
According to Borowitz, the Italian figure known as much for his “Bunga Bunga” sex parties and gaffes as for his political career and as the founder of Mediaset cinema and television giant, was so far unsure what office to seek but was leaning toward public advocate — as a starting point.
“Once they see how good Silvio does at that, they make him mayor or governor, no?” Berlusconi is quoted as saying.
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