Silvio Berlusconi: “I have a lot of gay friends, they’re friendly and funny”

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Italy’s former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi says his opponents have accused him of everything “except being gay and stealing money from Italians.”

AFP reported the 76-year-old media mogul made the comments to Italy’s Radio Capital on Monday.

Berlusconi, who has already been the country’s prime minister three times since 1994, is standing in February’s upcoming elections.

Throughout his long political career he has continually made homophobic statements.

In March 2011, Berlusconi declared that gay couples in Italy would never be allowed to marry or have adoption rights.

The year before, when faced with charges of having underage sex with prostitutes at his ‘bunga bunga’ parties, Berlusconi replied:

“I have a gruelling work schedule and if I happen to look pretty girls in the face now and then, well then, it’s better to be a fan of pretty women than to be gay.”

In response, Italy’s most prominent gay rights activist Franco Grillini said it was “better to be gay than to be a sex-addicted schemer like Berlusconi.”

Italy has among the worst legislative base for LGBT rights in Western Europe with no protections against discrimination in public, in the provision of goods and services or against hate speech.

Berlusconi resigned as PM in November 2011 as Italy battled with mounting economic chaos and soaring debt levels.