fragile masculinity

Brazil’s Bolsonaro said masks were “for fairies” – before he got COVID-19

Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro
President Jair Bolsonaro (Photo: Alan Santos/PR, licensed via CC-BY-2.0)

Brazil’s notoriously homophobic President, Jair Bolsonaro, announced to journalists on Tuesday that he has tested positive for COVID-19.

Now, it has emerged that Bolsonaro used a homophobic slur when dismissing the use of facemasks.

A leading newspaper in Brazil, The Folha de São Paulo, says Bolsonaro, before his diagnosis, mocked staff who wore facemasks, saying they were, “coisa de viado”. A homophobic slur, this roughly translates as “for fairies”.

Related: After months of downplaying coronavirus, Brazil’s antigay president tests positive for COVID-19

The allegation prompted widespread condemnation from local LGBTQ advocates. In a tweet that has gone viral, a law professor and columnist, Thiago Amparo, said, “President, one day a fairy, like me and many others, will sit in the presidential chair, and be an infinitely better president than you were.”

This is far from being the first time Bolsonaro has displayed his homophobia. Back in 2011, he said in an interview with Playboy, “I would be incapable of loving a gay son”, suggesting it would be better for such a son to die in a car accident.

In 2018, during a filmed interview, Bolsonaro said, “Yes, I’m homophobic – and very proud of it.”

Last year, Bolsonaro spoke out about allowing Brazil to become a “gay tourism paradise.”

Related: Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro slams nation’s gay tourism as an affront to “families”

Bolsonaro’s positive COVID-19 result comes following months of him downplaying the seriousness of the pandemic. This is despite Brazil now having the second-highest death toll in the world after the U.S.

This week’s COVID-19 test was Bolsonaro’s fourth in recent months. He developed symptoms on Sunday, including cough and high temperature.

In April, Bolsonaro had said he wasn’t worried about getting COVID-19, reasoning, “I wouldn’t feel anything, at most, it would be like a little flu or a little cold”. Aged 65, he is at greater risk of developing a more dangerous illness.

On Tuesday, Bolsonaro put on a mask to approach journalists, who filmed him as he announced his diagnosis. However, the journalists stood within six feet of Bolsonaro to hold microphones to his face. As he walked away, Bolsonaro also removed his face mask, saying he wished to show people that he was doing OK.

CNN Brasil, Record TV and TV Brazil have since quarantined the journalists they sent to Tuesday’s briefing. The Brazilian Press Association has also filed a lawsuit with the country’s Supreme Court, alleging Bolsonaro endangered the lives of the journalists present.

“The country cannot watch continued behavior that is beyond irresponsible and constitutes clear crimes against public health, without reacting,” said Brazil’s Press Association President, Paulo Jeronimo de Souza, to CNN.