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Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has publicly ended her live-in relationship with the father of her child after embarrassing footage of his inappropriate comments to a female colleague was broadcast on national television.

The rightwing premier announced on social media on Friday that she has terminated her 10-year partnership with TV anchor Andrea Giambruno amid a public storm over his vulgar on-set conduct during commercial breaks in his programme.

“Our paths have diverged for some time and the time has come to acknowledge it,” said Meloni.

Meloni, leader of the rightwing Brothers of Italy party, is a champion of traditional family values and staunchly opposes abortion, gay marriage and LGBT couples raising children. But her own personal life has followed a more unorthodox path and Giambruno’s conduct — both on and off the camera — was increasingly becoming a political liability for the Italian leader.

Her announcement came after Mediaset — the media empire founded by the late former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and now owned by his adult children — leaked video of Giambruno openly flirting with and touching a female colleague and an audio recording of him apparently propositioning colleagues to have group sex.

Critics said his vulgar, sexually-explicit banter was unacceptable in any professional workplace setting — let alone for the prime minister’s domestic partner. 

“After those videos, it was very hard for her not to do something,” said economist Azzurra Rinaldi, director of the La Sapienza University’s School of Gender Economics. “It was too disrespectful — not something you can accept. She had no other option.” 

The prime minister’s quick decision has already unleashed a wave of sympathy from Italian women from across the political spectrum, but Rinaldi said her reaction could hurt Meloni’s image among the conservative men of her core voter base.

“Many women are empathising with her — including women that will never vote for her,” the economist said. “But among men who are most of her voters, it’s going to harm her. Those kind of men behaved like that their whole lives — and they think she overreacted.”

As told in her autobiography Io sono Giorgia (I am Giorgia), she was not living with Giambruno when she discovered that she was pregnant in early 2016, while campaigning for Rome’s mayorship.

They moved in together after their daughter was born, but never married. His on-screen career as a TV personality took off in tandem with his partner’s political ascent, and he was given his own daytime TV programme to host earlier this year.

Giambruno sparked public outrage this summer when making on-air comments that seemed to blame the victims of two brutal gang rapes that had roiled Italy. Meloni distanced herself from his remarks and asked media not to hold her to “account for what a journalist freely doing his work on TV says”.

He also raised eyebrows with a tetchy response to a public warning from Germany’s health minister, Karl Lauterbach, who was holidaying in Italy, about the extreme summer heat and the impact of climate change in Europe. “If you don’t like how things are here, stay home — stay in the dark forest,” Giambruno said.

The premier’s partner also recently likened the influx of migrants from Africa arriving in Italy to the livestock that move from pasture to pasture to graze according to the seasons — remarks for which he subsequently apologised.

Announcing her split — with a photo of the family in happier days, Meloni thanked Giambruno for “splendid years together” and “the most important thing in her life,” their seven-year old daughter.

Rinaldi said the arch-conservative premier could end up serving as a model for other Italian women that feel trapped in bad relationships. “This could be a good signal for all those women that are living in a tough relationship and want to get out,” she said. 

Additional reporting by Giuliana Ricozzi in Rome.  

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