July 14, 2013 10:03 AM EST |
ROME — A leading Italian senator has been chastised by Premier Enrico Letta for likening the country’s first black Cabinet minister to an orangutan, the latest high-profile racist episode in a nation grappling with immigration.
Letta in a statement Sunday denounced Roberto Calderoli’s words as `’inacceptable” and `’beyond every limit.” Calderoli, the Senate’s vice-president and a leader of the anti-immigrant Northern League party, later said he was making a joke and meant no offense to Cecile Kyenge, a Congolese-born doctor who is the country’s immigration minister.
The Northern League isn’t in the government but has been the closest ally of former Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right party, which is Letta’s main partner in the coalition government.
Italian media quoted Kyenge as saying she had nothing to say to Calderoli.