This far-right Italian senator is under fire for saying that people should greet each other with a fascist salute instead of shaking hands to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Ignazio La Russa, 73, a senator for the national-conservative Brothers of Italy party, wrote on social media: “Don’t shake hands with anybody, the infection is lethal. Use the Roman (fascist) salute, anti-virus and anti-microbes.”
The Brothers of Italy is the main heir of the Italian post-fascist conservative movement.
La Russa, who was the Minister of Defence between 2008 and 2011 in Silvio Berlusconi’s government, reportedly deleted the message but netizens managed to take screenshots of it, leading to widespread criticism.
The populist Five Star Movement wrote “shame!” as a response to the message.
Five Star Movement senator and Vice President of the Italian Senate Paola Taverna commented “idiocy is not yet contagious”.
She added that La Russa was formerly “the regional secretary of the (neo-fascist) Youth Front” who would be seen “walking around the streets of Milan with his friends”.
Emanuele Fiano, a congressman from the Democratic Party, described La Russa’s comments as “serious” and “shameful”, saying the salute was “used by fascists and nazis”.
However, La Russa blamed his community manager for the scandal and explained that “maybe sarcasm” in a matter like coronavirus could be out of place.
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