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Unrepentant Mafioso interview spells trouble for Italian state TV

Giuseppe Salvatore Riina, son of a notorious Mafia boss, called his father "upstanding" on Italian national television. Now Rome wants answers from state broadcaster RAI.

A convicted Mafioso prompted outrage in Italy on Thursday following a television interview in which he refused to denounce organized crime. Giuseppe Salvatore Riina was on RAI public television promoting his memoirs about growing up as the son of Italy's most wanted man.

Riina is the son of Salvatore "Toto" Riina, a Cosa Nostra strongman nicknamed "the Beast," who is currently serving multiple life sentences for ordering the assassinations of anti-Mafia judges Giovanni Falconi and Paolo Borsellino in 1992. In the interview with RAI, Riina described his childhood as "nice" and even refused to acknowledge the existence of the Mafia.

He called his father "an upstanding man who respects family and traditional values." When asked to define the Sicilian crime syndicate, he enigmatically responded that "it could be everything or it could be nothing."

Mafia-Boss Toto Riina Kalenderblatt

Salvatore Riina was arrested in 1993

Lawmakers have expressed their ire at RAI for airing the interview, as more than 1,000 people lost their lives in the Mafia war of the early 1980s, which saw the elder Riina emerge as the supreme leader of the organization. "Toto" is suspected of having personally ordered at least 150 murders.

Top-level managers at the broadcaster have already been summoned to appear before Italy's anti-Mafia parliamentary committee on Thursday. Bruno Vespa, the longtime talk show host who gave the interview, said that it was in the public interest to air the episode because "it's the first time we see how an important mafia family works."

Writing on his Facebook page, Borsellino's brother Salvatore called the interview a "reopening of wounds" and said it made him sick.

The younger Riina has also seen prison time after being convicted of Cosa Nostra membership himself. His memoir, "Riina Family Life," details being homeschooled and changing identities in order to protect his father when he was in hiding.

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