A French television channel on Tuesday apologized to Italy for airing a mock advertisement for “corona pizza” in which a coughing chef hacks green phlegm onto Italy’s national dish.
Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Luigi Di Maio slammed the 10-second gag on the satirical Made in Groland program on Canal+, in which the red tomato base, white mozzarella and green mucus make up the colors of the national flag, as “bad taste and unacceptable.”
Globally, more than 3,100 people have died of COVID-19 and more than 92,000 have been infected.
Italy is the worst-hit in Europe, with 79 deaths and more than 2,500 people infected.
“Here’s the new Italian pizza, which is going to spread around the world,” the fake ad says.
Countries from Britain to China and France have reported cases of people bringing the virus back with them from Italy.
“Making fun of the Italians like that, with the coronavirus emergency we are facing, is profoundly disrespectful,” Di Maio said, adding that he had ordered the Italian embassy in Paris to voice Rome’s displeasure.
He insisted the media were “morally obliged” not to spread disinformation, saying that the Italian economy was paying the price.
The tourism sector in Italy has been hit particularly hard, with lots of airlines cutting or reducing flights to the north, where the outbreak is concentrated, and hotels reporting widespread cancelations, while monuments and museums lie eerily empty.
Soon after Di Maio’s comments, Canal+ issued a statement saying that its joke was “in very bad taste.”
Canal+ said it had removed the clip from its reruns and replay channel, and was “sending a letter of apology to the Italian ambassador to Paris this [Tuesday] afternoon.”
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