Berlusconi lashes out over TV sex scandal talk

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-- Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi called into a television talk show Monday night during an episode discussing claims that he had paid prostitutes for sex, lashing out at the program's host for running a "television brothel."

The heated exchange with host Gad Lerner on the program, called "L'Infedele" ("Unfaithful"), ended with Berlusconi hanging up after a nearly two-minute tirade.

"I'm watching a disgusting show," Berlusconi said after being introduced, going on to call the program despicable, foul and repulsive before being interrupted by Lerner.

"Then, you've already insulted us enough," the host retorted.

After more cross-talk during which Berlusconi appeared to ask Iva Zanicchi, a member of the European Parliament, to get up and leave the show, Lerner again asked Berlusconi to calm down.

"I beg you to moderate the tone of your voice," he said.

Berlusconi then apparently hangs up.

Find out what Italian women think of the scandal

Prosecutors are investigating claims that Berlusconi paid for sex with an underage girl and say three of his associates -- Nicole Minetti, Emilio Fede and Lele Mora -- helped arrange liaisons for him.

Milan prosecutors started the investigation in December after Berlusconi called police and urged them to release the girl from jail, where she was being held on charges of theft.

The girl, identified as nightclub dancer Karima El Mahrough, was 17 at the time of the alleged activity, from February until May. Both she and Berlusconi have denied they ever had sex.

El Mahrough said she did not know Berlusconi well, but that she did receive 7,000 euros (about $9,300) from him the first time they met, on Valentine's Day 2010, because a friend told Berlusconi she needed help.

The prime minister has characterized the allegations against him as political mud-slinging.

Berlusconi's attorneys have called the investigation "absurd and groundless" and a "grave interference" in Berlusconi's private life.