There is a war raging in the Middle East. The specter of terrorism is returning to Europe. A new China and Russia alliance is raising questions about the breakup of the world order.
But Italy on Friday was enthralled by a different breakup, as Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni alerted the country that her relationship with her longtime companion, the father of her daughter, and a television news anchor who has consistently caused her headaches, was finito after he appeared to flirt and proposition other women in comments caught on hot microphones and off-air video footage.
“My relationship with Andrea Giambruno, which lasted nearly 10 years, ends here,” Ms. Meloni wrote in a post on her social media channels, accompanied by a photo from happier times — a selfie of herself smiling with their then-toddler daughter in her arms and him with sculpted facial hair, an unbuttoned shirt and a model-serious face beside her. She thanked him for the “splendid” years together and for having given her the gift of their daughter. “Our ways have been divided for some time,” she wrote. “And the time has come to act.”
Mr. Giambruno, 42, had doubted climate change, compared migrants to cattle, and suggested that women avoid drinking to excess to avoid being raped, but what appears to have especially upset the prime minister is the appearance of her partner hitting on women who were not the prime minister.
The Italian satire show “Striscia la Notizia” this week revealed off-the-air video of the freewheeling Mr. Giambruno, the anchorman of “The Diary of the Day,” using vulgar language and crotch-grabbing gestures as he struts around the television studio and stopping by the desk of a seemingly annoyed co-anchor, commenting on the “incredible beauty” of her blue blouse. Giorgia did not seem on his mind. Boasting about his good hair in a room filled with bald men, he tells her, “You are such an intelligent woman, but how come I didn’t meet you earlier?”
Perhaps more damaging remarks, also obtained and aired this week by “Striscia La Notizia,” appear to have come from the Channel 4 studios, when microphones picked up his conversation with unidentified women. As an icebreaker, he asked a woman if it would be OK if he touched “my package” as they talked. She pointed out that he already had.
“What’s your name, did we ever meet before?” he adds, as they laugh, “Where did I see you already, was I drunk?” He goes on to suggest that he and another media figure were having an affair and that everyone at the network knew about it. “Now you do, too. But we are looking for a third participant. We are doing the threesome. ”
He then tells her that the exam she needed to pass in order to enter their “working group” was sex.
He then makes light of the comments, saying, “What did I say? Come, on, we’re just laughing and joking; we are coming from a pandemic.”
Mediaset, Mr. Giambruno’s television network, said Friday evening that he and the company had agreed that he be given a one-week paid suspension from his program. Laura Ferrato, a Mediaset spokeswoman, said the company was “evaluating with attention” what had happened. Mr. Giambruno did not immediately comment.
The Corriere della Sera, the country’s leading newspaper, led its website with the news and also ran a separate story headlined, “All of the gaffes of Andrea Giambruno, ex-companion of Giorgia Meloni: from the rapes to the migrants to the climate.” The more liberal La Repubblica also led with the news, adding a separate report: “Behind the Scenes: The Prime Minister Is Stunned After the Double Audio.”
Il Foglio, a more centrist paper, reported that the Berlusconi family, which owns the network where Mr. Giambruno appears, had allowed him in July to host the news commentary program from Rome, to be closer to Ms. Meloni and their daughter.
Almost a year earlier though, Silvio Berlusconi, the media mogul and politician who died in June, appeared to threaten Ms. Meloni during a power struggle after she won the country’s national elections. He noted that Mr. Giambruno worked for him at Mediaset. Ms. Meloni warned Mr. Berlusconi that she “could not be blackmailed.”
Ms. Meloni, 46, who is a staunch defender of traditional family values despite having a less-traditional family, met Mr. Giambruno in a television studio in 2014. As the two have recounted frequently in interviews, she was eating a banana between commercial breaks when Mr. Giambruno, who worked on the show, grabbed the fruit out of her hand just before the show came back live. The two hit it off and she sent him a message shortly after. Their daughter was born in 2016.
She is by no means the first Italian leader who has captivated Italy with the details of her personal life.
Mr. Berlusconi, of course, set the standard for complicated, and sensational, private behavior while in office. During his last stint in power, he held what he called elegant dinners and what the world came to know as Bunga Bunga bacchanals and sex parties.
In 2020, during the tenure of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, his powerful chief spokesman Rocco Casalino, who had first come to notoriety as a reality television personality, issued a news release explaining that his boyfriend, with whom he planned to open a sushi restaurant, had lost thousands of euros on an online trading site.
In what he described as “this difficult phase of my relationship,” he wrote that he hoped the press would “respect my privacy.”
Ms. Meloni also requested privacy, even as she received messages of solidarity from her colleagues, supporters and frenemies.
“A strong hug to Giorgia, with my friendship and support,” wrote her coalition partner, and political rival, Matteo Salvini, whose love life has also made headlines. “Forward, head held high!”
Since her election, Ms. Meloni had been more or less private about her relationship. Mr. Giambruno, less so. (“My Gypsy Heart,” reads the headline over a picture of him posing, with windswept hair in windswept tall grass, on the cover of this week’s Chi Magazine.) It appears Ms. Meloni’s elevation as the first female prime minister in Italy and Mr. Giambruno’s on- and off-air exploits proved too complicated.
During the summer, Mr. Giambruno drew criticism that Ms. Meloni’s enemies then tried to reflect onto her — in particular when, on his TV show, he weighed in on a spate of rape cases by commenting that women should not drink heavily to avoid “getting found by the wolf.” The remark infuriated leftist politicians and activists.
Throughout, Ms. Meloni came to his defense.
“For months, I’ve been called on everything that Giambruno says,” she said in September. “So, I’d like to understand your idea of press freedom. The way I see it, a journalist on television doesn’t say what his wife thinks.” She added that it was unfair that a journalist be attacked more than usual because “he loves me.”
She concluded at the time, “I am asking you, in the future, to not ask me to explain what a journalist, in his free expression of his work, states on television.”
In her post on Friday, Ms. Meloni, whose father left her family when she was a child, said her daughter Ginevra would still love her father “as I could not love mine.
“I have nothing else to say on this.”
Except for one last, defiant, and extremely on-brand Giorgia Meloni, thing to say.
“PS,” she wrote “All those who have hoped to weaken me by hitting me at home, should know that as much as the water drop can hope to dig into the stone, the stone remains a stone and the water is just water.”