Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro appears to have recovered from his bout of Chinese coronavirus with his combative spirit intact, as he threatened to punch a reporter in the face on Sunday in response to a question about possible links between his wife and a corruption scandal.
A reporter from the newspaper O Globo asked Bolsonaro on Sunday about a story in a different publication that linked First Lady Michelle Bolsonaro to the president’s old friend Fabricio Queiroz, a former police officer and until recently an adviser to Flavio Bolsonaro, the president’s 39-year-old son and a sitting member of the Brazilian Senate.
Flavio Bolsonaro has been embroiled in a corruption probe since last year, an investigation his father denounced as a political hit job. The allegations say Queiroz ran a scheme on behalf of the younger Bolsonaro that involved skimming money from the salaries of phantom employees.
The article that incensed Jair Bolsonaro on Sunday was published by a magazine called Crusoe last month. It charged that Queiroz deposited some $13,000 in checks from government employees into Michelle Bolsonaro’s account over a span of five years, beginning in 2011.
Queiroz was arrested in June after laying low for the past year, leading to taunts of “Where is Queiroz?” from President Bolsonaro’s opponents. Crusading against corruption was a major theme of Bolsonaro’s run for the presidency.
In response to the O Globo reporter asking about the Crusue report, Bolsonaro referred to the reporter as “naughty” and replied, “I want to stuff your mouth with punches, ok?”
Bolsonaro reportedly departed the press conference without taking any further questions. According to Fox News, “a social media campaign saw journalists and citizens tweet the reporter’s question at the president” numerous times on Sunday and Monday.
O Globo issued a statement repudiating “President Jair Bolsonaro’s aggression against a newspaper reporter who was just doing their job performing his role, in a totally professional manner.”
The Brazilian National Association of Journalists said it was “unfortunate” that Bolsonaro reacted “aggressively and without fear to a question from a journalist.”
Bolsonaro addressed the controversy on Twitter Monday, accusing the owners of O Globo, the Marinho family, of their own corruption.
“For at least ten years the Globo network has persecuted me and have managed to prove nothing against me,” Bolsonaro wrote. “Now I await explanations from the Marinho family over the allegation from the ‘money changer of money changers’ that funds over 1 billion reais [$178.7 million] would be passed over to them.”
Bolsonaro also posted a link to a story detailing alleged involvement by the Globo network owners (Globo includes the newspaper and a television network, among other properties) in money laundering.
– Há pelo menos 10 anos o sistema Globo me persegue e nada conseguiram provar contra mim.
– Agora aguardo explicações da família Marinho sobre a delação do "doleiro dos doleiros", onde valores superiores a R$ 1 bilhão teriam sido repassados a eles. pic.twitter.com/ZRS730K5Pg
— Jair M. Bolsonaro (@jairbolsonaro) August 24, 2020
Despite the Queiroz controversy, a great deal of criticism for how Bolsonaro has handled the coronavirus pandemic, and the president himself contracting the virus, recent polls found his approval rating climbing to all-time highs. Reuters speculated that much of his growing support from the poor has been due to an emergency relief program for low-income workers.
Bolsonaro also appears to have beaten his personal coronavirus infection, much as he boisterously predicted he would.