Italian president scraps meeting with German opposition leader over 'clowns' comment

The German opposition leader's comment that "two clowns" won Italy's election has led the Italian president to cancel a meeting with him.

Peer Steinbrueck is Chancellor Angela Merkel's challenger for the top job in Germany's September election. In discussing the Italian vote, he said Tuesday that he was "appalled to a certain point that two clowns won."

That was an apparent reference to comic-turned-politician Beppe Grillo, whose anti-establishment 5 Star Movement performed strongly, and scandal-scarred former Premier Silvio Berlusconi, whose center-right coalition did better than expected.

Steinbrueck also said, "My impression is that two populists won."

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano is visiting Germany and was due to meet with Steinbrueck, but Steinbrueck spokesman Michael Donnermeyer said Napolitano called off the meeting because of the "clown" comments.