U.S. Ambassador in Rome Criticized by PD After Praise for Grillo

U.S. Ambassador to Italy David Thorne urged an assembly of high-school students in Rome to emulate the upstart political movement of ex-comic Beppe Grillo and push to create a society where merit is rewarded.

“I know there’s a problem with meritocracy,” Thorne said today, according to a video posted on the Internet. “But you can take control of your country and act like the Five Star Movement, push for reforms and change.”

Thorne held Five Star up as a model for Italy after the performance of Grillo’s party in February elections upended the balance of power in parliament. Five Star, which garnered about a quarter of the votes by promising to sweep established politicians from power, is among the four main parliamentary forces negotiating to form Italy’s next government.

“You are the future of Italy and it’s up to you at this time to act for your country,” Thorne said in the address to students.

A spokesman for the Democratic Party, whose leader Luigi Bersani won a majority in the lower house, criticized the comments by Thorne.

“The one thing we don’t need are frankly inappropriate comments, even if made by friends of our country like those today by the American ambassador,” Lapo Pistelli, a party spokesman for foreign affairs, said in an e-mailed statement.

“The embassy doesn’t support any political force,” the U.S. embassy said today in a Twitter Inc. posting. “It talks with all and promotes the use of social media as a tool for change.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Frye in Rome at afrye@bloomberg.net; Lorenzo Totaro in Rome at ltotaro@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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