Greek Politician Physically Attacks Opponents On TV

On live TV in Greece on Thursday, the spokesman for the extreme far-right Golden Dawn party became enraged at two female left-wing politicians and attacked them. He threw a water bottle at one woman and slapped the other woman hard across the face three times. The ugly turn comes one week ahead of crucial elections.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. In a new low for political civility in Greece, the spokesman of a far-right party physically attacked two female politicians on live TV. Police have issued a warrant for the man's arrest. And as Joanna Kakissis reports from Athens, the incident shows how polarized Greece has become just days before an election.

(SOUNDBITE OF GREEK TALK SHOW)

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: The guests on Greek talk shows are often loud, excitable and argumentative. But until today, they were never physically violent. The scene was a morning TV debate. The guests included Ilias Kasidiaris, the spokesman of Golden Dawn, a far-right extremist group linked to violent attacks against immigrants. Kasidiaris, who served in the Greek special forces, got into a shouting match with two rival politicians: Liana Kanelli, a Communist, and Rena Dourou, who's with the leftist SYRIZA Party. Kanelli accused Golden Dawn of shady connections with police. Then Dourou said the party would set back Greece 500 years.

(SOUNDBITE OF GREEK TALK SHOW)

KAKISSIS: And Kasidiaris snapped. He threw a glass of water in Dourou's face. And then - to the horror of the host who kept screaming no, no, no - he stood up and hit Kanelli in the face three times. Nick Malkoutzis, an editor at the Greek newspaper Kathimerini, says Greeks are horrified at the act.

NICK MALKOUTZIS: Greece is still a very sort of traditional male-dominated society, and punching a woman is completely unacceptable to most people, let alone if you're doing it on live TV.

KAKISSIS: Kanelli told reporters later that the attack shamed the entire country.

LIANA KANELLI: (Speaking foreign language)

KAKISSIS: It happened to be my face, she said, but there are many faces that get hit by these people - faces of weak and scared victims that we never see. Political science professor Kostas Ifantis says he hopes voters now see Golden Dawn for who they really are.

KOSTAS IFANTIS: These people are not just pro-violence. It's the definition of political violence. The hope is that at least some of those 440,000 people who voted for them will realize what their choice was.

KAKISSIS: Golden Dawn leader Nikolas Michaloliakos blamed the two women for provoking his party's spokesman into losing his temper. For NPR News, I'm Joanna Kakissis in Athens.

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