Italy's famous comedian-turned-protest politician, Beppe Grillo, joked about Sadiq Khan being a suicide bomber. Italian lawmakers have criticized his stand-up routine as racist and offensive.
Italian and British media were abuzz on Monday after sometime-comedian sometime-politician Beppe Grillo made what was seen as an offensive joke about London Mayor Sadiq Khan as part of his stand-up routine. According to newspaper La Repubblica, Grillo first congratulated Khan on his appointment, then joked that he wondered when the British capital's first Muslim mayor might "blow himself up in front of Westminster."
Grillo, who first rose to international prominence in 2013 when his Five Star protest party (MS5) won a surprising 25 percent of the general election vote, was performing stand-up in front of an audience of 2,500 in Padua on Saturday night.
He also said he was surprised that a "Bangladeshi" could be so enthusiastically voted as the mayor of a British city. The London-born politician of Pakistani heritage easily defeated his conservative rival on the May 5 election.
Ruling politicians slam Grillo
Italian politicians outside of MS5 were quick to distance themselves from Grillo's comments. "I did not laugh," tweeted Roberto Giachetti, a candidate for mayor of Rome with Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's center-left Democratic Party (PD).
PD Senator Stefano Esposito chided the MS5 candidate for the Roman elections, Virginia Raggi, asking on Twitter what she thought of "the racist insult her boss directed at the mayor of London?"
Should Raggi win the municipal election on June 5, she would be the Italian city's first female mayor and gain MS5 its most high-profile position since other parties kept it out of a coalition government in 2013 despite its relatively broad support.
Grillo, 67, put his comedy career to the side in 2009 when he founded the Five Star Movement as an anti-establishment alternative to what he saw as the entrenched and corrupt parties that had ruled Italy since the political upheaval of 1992. MS5 has adopted a youth-oriented euroskeptic platform, arguing that the European Union props up Northern European economies at the expense of the south.
Manlio Di Stefano, an MS5 lawmaker, told La Repubblica on Monday that "Beppe has always taken international developments onto the stage," and said that the comedian was "just joking."