Italy’s Jewish leadership has called out a controversial senior lawmaker who insulted Minister Cecile Kyenge with a gross racial slur, saying Italian Jews condemned such remarks and felt they shamed the whole country.
The smear came from Vice President of the Italian Senate, Roberto Calderoli, who said of the cabinet minister, "Whenever I see Minister Kyenge, I cannot help but think of an orangutan."
A political ally of politician Silvio Berlusconi, Calderoli once sparked controversy by describing a law he himself co-authored “a pig-sty.” In 2006, he explained Italy’s defeat of France in the soccer World Cup by saying France “sacrificed its identity for results by fielding niggers, Muslims and Communists."
A statement by the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, called Calderoli orangutan remark about Kyenge “shameful” and “an offense against the institutions and against Italian society as a whole.”
The organization President, Renzo Gattegna, wrote: “There are no misunderstandings when phrases like this are concerned, only a sense of profound uneasiness and shame for whoever has made them. All the solidarity of Italian Jews goes to minister Kyenge.”
Cecile Kyenge immigrated to Italy from the Democratic Republic of the Congo nearly 30 years ago. Since being named minister two months ago, she has had to contend with an avalanche of hate speech mainly from extreme right political groups.