Controversy in Rome over Casamonica TV interview

Rome mayor furious over appearance of mafia family on state television.

Rome's mayor Iganzio Marino has described the appearance on state television of two members of the notorious Casamonica family together with their lawyer as "unacceptable" on a public broadcasting service.

The two Casamonica characters, the daughter and grandson of mafia boss Vittorio Casamonica, whose ostentatious funeral sparked outrage last month, were hosted by veteran Italian journalist Bruno Vespa on the flagship RAI Uno television talk show Porta a Porta on 8 September.

Marino has requested that the parliamentary commission overseeing RAI look into the interview during which Vera Casamonica described her father as a king of Rome, compared him first to Pope Francis and then to “Papa Wojtyla” and continued to defend his lavish funeral.

The capital's deputy mayor Marco Causi demanded an apology from the state broadcaster, while the head of the Anti-Mafia Commission, Rosy Bindi, said the interview was "an unprecedented choice that has no justification and mortifies RAI's [public service] role."

The ratings for the Casamonica show were higher than for the previous Porta a Porta interview with prime minister Matteo Renzi. But the evening afterwards Vespa appeared face-to-face with the city's councillor for legal affairs and anti-mafia magistrate, Alfonso Sabella, to defend his actions.

Vespa explained his reasons for his hour-long Casamonica interview, which was friendly and relaxed, pointing out that neither interviewee had a criminal record. He also cited several previous interviews of his with infamous gangsters in which their victims had not been present.

The Casamonica appearance took place a week after the city staged an anti-Mafia protest at Piazza Don Bosco in Rome’s Cinecittà district, the scene of the crime patriarch's funeral, footage of which was replayed to more than a million Porta a Porta viewers on 8 September.

The Godfather-style funeral took place on 20 August, when most of the city residents – including the mayor – were away for the Ferragosto holiday. City officials claimed they had no advance warning of the event, which included a helicopter dropping rose petals from the sky, and which further reinforced the image of Rome as a capital without any proper leadership or control.

The controversy takes place against the backdrop of the so-called Mafia Capitale case which is investigating more than 100 public officials and business figures – including Marino's predecessor Gianni Alemanno – on suspicion of crimes including bid-rigging, racketeering, aggravated fraud, issuing false invoices, and tax evasion.