- Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro shared a Twitter video falsely accusing a journalist of trying to impeach him.
- The controversial post comes less than a week after Bolsonaro tweeted a sexually explicit video.
- Bolsonaro often avoids appearances on mainstream media, and prefers communicating with his supporters directly over Twitter or Facebook.
- Bolsonaro — who has been compared to Trump for his populism and their similar policies — appears to be mimicking his unrestrained use of social media, too.
Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro tweeted on Sunday a video falsely accusing a journalist of conspiring to impeach him — the latest in a string of conspiratorial, explicit, or otherwise unnerving posts, which seem to follow the example established by US President Donald Trump.
Bolsonaro was inaugurated in January, and has repeatedly pushed the boundaries of convention with the unconfirmed — and often demonstrably untrue — information he shares on official social media accounts.
He sent Brazilian Twitter into a tailspin last week when he posted sexually explicit images of a man at a São Paulo carnival urinating on another man’s head.
The act is colloquially known as a “golden shower,” prompting the president to ask his followers: “What is a golden shower?”
The video was an apparent attempt to discredit carnival street parties, after many Brazilians used the festivities as an opportunity to protest against him.
On Tuesday, Bolsonaro posted another controversial video, in which he suggested that unspecified malevolent forces are trying to assassinate him.
Another controversial post targeted Constança Rezende, a journalist with the influential Estado de S. Paulo newspaper.
It shows a video recording, originally published by far-right news outlet Terça Livre, Rezende discusses a money-laundering scandal that might implicate the president’s son, senator Flávio Bolsonaro.
She is talking with a person posing as a US student. It is not clear who he really is. The recording is in English, with Portuguese subtitles.
Constança Rezende, do “O Estado de SP” diz querer arruinar a vida de Flávio Bolsonaro e buscar o Impeachment do Presidente Jair Bolsonaro. Ela é filha de Chico Otavio, profissional do “O Globo”. Querem derrubar o Governo, com chantagens, desinformações e vazamentos. pic.twitter.com/1iskN3Az2F
— Jair M. Bolsonaro (@jairbolsonaro) March 10, 2019
Bolsonaro accused Rezende of wanting to “ruin the life of Flávio Bolsonaro and impeach Jair Bolsonaro.”
But to English-speaking viewers, it is clear the journalist was talking about what the implications of the scandal might be, rather than her personal view on what she wants to happen.
“This case can ruin Bolsonaro… I think it’s an impeachment case,” she said.
The audio seems to be edited, and there is dramatic music in the background. The video also highlights that Rezende works for a major outlet, and that her father used to report for another prominent newspaper, O Globo.
“They want to take down the government with blackmail, misinformation, and leaks,” Bolsonaro wrote on Twitter.
The Brazilian Bar Association and the Association for Investigative Journalists criticized Bolsonaro for “using his position of power to intimidate media outlets and journalists.”
Bolsonaro’s press office told INSIDER it did not want to comment on the president’s social media use.
A reporter for the Guardian suggested that Bolsonaro’s attack on Rezende justifies his occasional nickname of the “Tropical Trump.”
There will be more international shame for Brazil today after President Jair Bolsonaro used fake news to fuel a vicious online witch hunt against a Brazilian journalist. Desperate to live up to his billing as the the Tropical Trump by spreading @Twitter poison, it seems
— Tom Phillips (@tomphillipsin) March 11, 2019
The media frequently compares the presidents because they both received widespread support from marketing themselves as politically incorrect outsiders ending the status quo.
Jason Stanley, a philosophy professor at Yale, told the Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo that Trump and Bolsonaro use similar tactics: They ran on anticorruption platforms, keep friends and family in their political circles, and target minorities in their discourse.
“[Bolsonaro] goes even further than Trump because he is more in favor of violence,” he said of the Brazilian president.
But one of their greatest similarities is how they use social media to speak directly to their supporters – and avoid being questioned by the mainstream media.
Gustavo Ribeiro, a journalist for the English-language outlet Brazilian Report, noticed how this approach has changed the way reporters do their jobs.
“It has now become routine for Brazilian journalists to report on image crises generated by presidential tweets – American colleagues might know the feeling better than anyone,” he wrote in an article.
The US president often makes headlines with his social media presence, tweeting frequently and into the early morning hours.
Like Bolsonaro, Trump often causes public outcry with sexually-charged content or attacks on the media.
“Did Crooked Hillary help disgusting (check out sex tape and past) Alicia M become a U.S. citizen so she could use her in the debate?” he tweeted in 2016. He was referencing Alicia Machado, a former Miss Universe who accused him of shaming her for her weight and Hispanic background.
He also famously shared a doctored video in which he is seen beating up a person with a CNN logo over their face.
For Bolsonaro, Twitter and Facebook became especially important platforms after he was stabbed at a campaign rally in September. Bolsonaro, a presidential candidate at the time, was bedridden after the near-fatal attack.
But even after he was discharged, he cited health issues as the reason he could not attend a televised debate with his competitor.
Instead he broadcasted frequent Facebook Live videos, which he resumed after the “golden shower” carnival video was widely shared and criticized.
In one surprising moment in his comeback livestream, Bolsonaro held up medical diagrams of genitalia, and criticized former president Dilma Rousseff for putting “inappropriate images” in vaccination booklets.
The livestream was successful with his supporters, racking up millions of views.
“It will be a long way, Captain, but we will always be with you on this journey,” one supporter commented.