Lombardy candidate backtracks over claim that migration threatens Italy’s ‘white race’

Attilio Fontana, the leading candidate to govern Italy’s most populous region, says he made a slip of the tongue when he claimed that migration threatened to wipe out “our white race”.

Lombardy candidate backtracks over claim that migration threatens Italy’s ‘white race’
A Northern League supporter in Milan. Photo: Paco Serinelli/AFP

Fontana, a member of the far-right Northern League who is running for president of Lombardy with the backing of a centre-right coalition, made the comments to his party’s official radio station on Sunday.

“We can’t take in everyone here, because if we did the social and ethnic reality would no longer be us,” Fontana said during a lengthy discussion on migration.

“Because there are many more of them than us and they are much more determined to occupy this country. It isn’t a question of being xenophobic or racist, but being logical or rational. […]

“We have to decide if our ethnicity, if our white race, if our society should continue to exist or if it should be wiped out.”

Hear Fontana's full interview above.

As opponents condemned his comments, Fontana on Monday put them down to a “slip of the tongue”, insisting he meant to say that Italy should rethink its migration policies to protect “our history and our society”.

The head of the Northern League, Matteo Salvini, defended Fontana, claiming that Italy was under threat from an “invasion” and “Islamization” that – he maintained – had nothing to do with skin colour.

Fontana’s main rival for the presidency of Lombardy, centre-left candidate Giorgio Gori, urged voters to reject “hysteria and demagoguery” when they go to the polls on March 4th, the same day as Italy’s general election.

“There are those who talk of pitchforks and a white race. We’re talking about training, jobs, growth, Europe. You choose,” he tweeted.

The Northern League is currently waging its most ambitious general election campaign to date as part of a conservative coalition with Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party and the far-right Brothers of Italy.

Though Salvini has dropped or diluted some of the party’s most extreme talking points – such as northern secession or quitting the euro – in a bid to make it more palatable to a national audience, he has maintained its hardline stance against immigration.

The leader of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S), Luigi Di Maio, suggested that Fontana’s comments revealed the true nature of the League and its coalition partners.

“Berlusconi says that we’re worse than post-communists, that they’re moderates and we’re extremists,” Di Maio said. “If they’re moderates then I’m Gandhi.”

 Attilio Fontana. Photo: Associazione Amici di Piero Chiara/Wikimedia Commons

Fontana began his campaign just last week, after the sitting president of Lombardy, fellow Northern League member Roberto Maroni, unexpectedly announced his withdrawal from the race. Maroni, considered a moderate by League standards, cited political differences with Salvini.

Lombardy, the region containing Milan, is one of the League’s biggest strongholds. The latest poll, conducted before Fontana made his remarks, put him in first place to win the regional election with 42 percent, ahead of Gori with 37 percent. 


IN PHOTOS: Snowfall turns central Milan white

Wintry weather has arrived in many parts of northern Italy on Monday, with snow in Milan, Turin, Genoa and other areas.

IN PHOTOS: Snowfall turns central Milan white
Snow in central Milan on Monday morning. All photos: Migual Medina/AFP
While the Alps are already blanketed, areas at lower altitude got a covering of snow on Monday as the weather turned colder.
All photos: Migual Medina/AFP
Residents of central Milan woke up to find the city had turned white, after the first flakes fell overnight. Around 20 centimetres (8 inches) of snow fell in the city on Monday.
The cold weather didn't stop people from getting out into the fresh air, perhaps for the first time in days, with some loosening of coronavirus restrictions on Monday.
Falling trees disrupted traffic, with local authorities deploying dozens of snowploughs to clear main thoroughfares.
The storms caused tailbacks on several motorways, notably the A26 bound for Italy's largest commercial port of Genoa, capital of the Liguria region.
Main roads around Milan had been cleared on Monday morning, local media reports, but many others are still covered with snow.
Bad weather has caused disruption to train servces in Lombardy, Piedmont, Liguria, Veneto and other parts of the north.
The Great St Bernard Tunnel on the border with Switzerland was closed to heavy goods vehicles
With a typically humid climate, Milan rarely sees snow on a large scale but January 1985 notably saw 90 centimetres, with smaller falls in 2006 and 2009.
Rome was hit by heavy rain as well as strong winds and storms. The wintry weather was expected to move further south overnight

Unfortunately for snow tourists, Italy's ski resorts remain closed until at least January under the country's strict coronavirus rules.
All photos: Migual Medina/AFP
Winter weather words in Italian

la neve – snow

la nevicata – snowfall

i fiocchi – flakes

innevato – snow-covered

imbiancato – turned white

il gelo – ice

l'inverno – winter