Italian residents are outraged by a mock coronavirus ad that was televised on the French premium channel Canal+, which depicts an Italian pizza chef hacking green phlegm on the afflicted country’s national dish.
The insensitive skit aired Tuesday on the satirical TV show “Groland” just when Italy’s confirmed COVID-19 cases surpassed 2,500 – 79 of which have resulted in death at the time of publication, according to Johns Hopkins University's live tracker.
"I consider the video broadcast on a French TV channel to be of dubious taste and unacceptable," Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio wrote in a public Facebook post that condemned the 10-second gag. "I understand satire, I understand everything, but making fun of the Italian people in this way, with the coronavirus emergency we are facing, is profoundly disrespectful.”
Di Maio added that he sent word to the Italian embassy in Paris to voice the country’s displeasure. Additionally, he urged the French media to not spread disinformation seeing as Italy’s economy is already suffering.
Tourism has been in decline with several airlines suspending or reducing flights in areas where the outbreak is concentrated. Some Italian towns have gone as far as to close down operations to minimize the spread of the virus, according to the Associated Press.
On a global scale, the coronavirus has infected over 92,800 people and claimed the lives more the 3,150. In Europe, Italy has been hit the worst with neighboring countries such as France and Switzerland having reported their respective outbreaks are connected to travelers who had recently visited Italy and unknowingly carried the virus.
Currently, France has 204 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with four deaths related to the respiratory illness.
Italy’s Agricultural Minister Teresa Bellanova echoed Di Maio’s sentiments about the “Corona Pizza” skit in an interview with local reporters Tuesday.
"This is not satire, it's an insult to an entire nation," she said, according to Il Tempo TV. "As the European and international authorities have repeatedly stated, it is not transmitted through food."
Additionally, representatives at the Italian farmer association Coldiretti characterized the French segment as “stab in the back” for the $5.5 billion made in Italy's industry, which is the second-largest market after Germany, according to a report from the French newspaper The Local.
Italy and France have numerous competing industries such as apparel, wine, cheese and sparkling beverages. Throughout history, the two countries have had an adversarial relationship.