Friday, October 29, 2010


Allegations of sexual and official impropriety are nothing new for Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi , but their cumulative effect might finally be having an impact on his political fortunes. His own wife has accused him of “consorting with minors,” he took heat last year over attending the birthday party of an 18-year-old model, and now a 17-year-old Moroccan girl has claimed to legal authorities that she attended parties at the Prime Minister’s private residence. What happened at those parties is unclear, but Berlusconi doesn’t deny anything. “I am very proud of my ability to be a host, a rather rare, perhaps unique host,” he said to reporters. “I am a playful person, full of life. I love life, I love women.” He went on to say that he deserves some playtime because “I have a terrible life—I have a life that requires super-human efforts.” The comments break two cardinal rules of crisis communications. One is, don’t downplay the seriousness or impact on others of your actions. And second, never make the crisis about yourself, as BP’s Tony Hayward did when in the midst of the Gulf of Mexico spill he expressed a desire to get back to his normal life. Do it, and you come across not just as somebody who might have made a mistake, but also a jerk. Granted, Berlusconi has got away with indiscretions before by pleading he’s a bon vivant, but this time he might not be so lucky—as his plummeting approval ratings suggest. Fumble, Silvio Berlusconi.

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