It was meant to be about belt-tightening as Italian ministers faced the press, outlining austerity measures to tackle the huge public debt.
But a news conference on Thursday will be remembered for all the wrong reasons after one of the government team was overheard calling a colleague a “cretin.”
Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper has posted video images of the gaffe by Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti on its website. It says he also directed other insults at his Public Works counterpart Renato Brunetta but these are difficult to hear on the film.
With Italy in dire economic straits, ‘CretinGate’ highlights tensions in the coalition government, still reeling after a string of humiliating defeats in local elections.