Rome: 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 television awards dinner last week, "If I wasn't already married I would marry you right away", and "with you I'd go anyway", 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," she added.
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.
Beyond helping her daughters Barbara and Leonora, Veronica said standing up to Berlusconi publicly would also serve as a lesson to her son, Luigi, "to never forget to keep among his fundamental values respect for women".
It was not the first time Berlusconi's gaffes about women including his wife have got him in trouble. In October 2002, he told a news conference with Denmark's Anders Fogh Rasmussen the Dane was "the best-looking prime minister in Europe. He's so good looking, I'm even thinking of introducing him to my wife," he added, chuckling to himself.
He found himself in the diplomatic doghouse in 2005 for joking that he used his masculine charms to persuade Finland's woman president to make Italy the site of an EU agency. "I had to use all my playboy tactics, even if they have not been used for some time," Berlusconi said.