Italy’s new Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has the country’s media running scared

By Adele Berti

Italy’s next prime minister Giuseppe Conte hasn’t even been confirmed by the country’s parliament yet and he’s already making headlines — for all the wrong reasons.

Shortly after he was named as the likely new Italian leader by the leaders of Italy’s two largest parties — the Five-Star Movement and the Northern League — reports emerged Conte may have exaggerated his CV.

The New York Times published a story on Tuesday saying that despite Conte’s claims he “perfected and updated his studies” at New York University, the school has no records of him attending.

There were then reports Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella had his own reservations about appointing Conte.

Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported Conte’s Wikipedia page was shut down for a few hours before reappearing, though with no reference to his past studies at NYU.

Fresh evidence then showed Conte actually spent some time at the university during several summers despite not formally appearing in the records.

Now, some have described the media reaction to Conte’s enlivened CV as disproportionate.

“We had ministers and political exponents who did much worse than tweaking a CV and it has always been accepted or ignored. He is paying a price way too high compared to what he allegedly did,” said Vittorio Emanuele Parsi, politics professor at Milan’s Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore.

Social media users made similar comments, suggesting the media was trying to depict Conte as fraud.

Parsi said:

The reaction following the news of Conte’s CV looked to me quite disproportionate. For what I know he didn’t even truly lie about it, but rather just added a bit of make-up to make it look more appealing.

The general feeling, according to Parsi, is that the target of Italian and foreign media’s critics was the parties he would represent once prime minister, rather than his actions.

Parsi added:

He was indicated as the new prime minister by a group of parties characterised by an anti-establishment nature, with similar voters who are united by the fact that they are angry. This has resulted in an excessive media attention on these parties.

The Five-Star Movement and the Northern League recently outlined their government’s programme, which aims at cutting down immigration, strengthening Italy’s relationship with Russia and calling a referendum on Italy’s membership of the euro.

Fears about the impact this government could have on the European monetary system were often expressed by Italian mainstream media, which, according Antonio Maria Baggio, politics professor at the Sophia University Institute, have used Conte to hit out at the parties.

Baggio said: “My impression was that all those who did not want the question of the prime minister to be solved this way – that is, with a university professor sided by two political figures who could impose their decisions to him and potentially use him as a mere perpetrator – used news regarding his CV, which still needs to be proven, to go against his rise to the power.”

It is far too evident that this tendency [from the media] to attack Conte before getting to know about him is strictly linked to their own political view.

Baggio said that even though the allegations against him have not been confirmed and could been proved wrong, Conte’s image is now inevitably damaged in the eyes of European leaders.

He said:

We still do not know much about this Professor, his ideas and intentions, but we did not have the chance to meet him properly.” But now that he has a country strained by debts to lead, Conte will have every opportunity to make a name for himself.

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