Silvio Berlusconi Backs Catherine Deneuve Over Controversial #MeToo Comments

Silvio Berlusconi

Silvio Berlusconi

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi backed French actress Catherine Deneuve on Thursday for saying that men should be "free to hit on" women.

Berlusconi said "It's not an offense to court women if it stays in the realm of elegance", and that it was only "natural" that women enjoy the affections of men.

"The important thing is that the courtship is elegant", he added.

But although he has faced years of legal woes, he has never faced sexual assault allegations, and a 2013 conviction for paying for sex with an underage woman known as Ruby the Heart Stealer was overturned on appeal.

But he remains accused of buying off one of the witnesses in that case.

Deneuve and 99 other French women on Tuesday denounced a backlash against men, saying the recent worldwide campaign against sexual harassment amounted to "puritanism" and was fueled by a "hatred of men".

The letter warned about a new "puritanism" as a result of recent sexual harassment scandals and condemned the wave of "denunciations" that followed rape allegations made against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

France is home to famed feminists and its own "me too" movement, and the Deneuve-signed letter drew much criticism.

He is now unable to run for office due to a tax fraud conviction, but his party could get into power - with current polls suggesting that a Forza Italia-led coalition could be on the cusp of gaining a parliamentary majority.

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