“I think you go to sleep thinking about me. You are in love with me,” Bolsonaro told Vera Magalhães after asking him about Covid-19 vaccination coverage in Brazil. “You are a disgrace to journalism in Brazil,” he said.
Magalhães later said that Bolsonaro’s attitude was “absolutely out of control, unnecessary and…injurious to himself”. She said she believed Bolsonaro “does not like to be questioned by women.”
Bolsonaro’s insulting comments to Magalhães came after he was criticized for his attitude towards women. The far-right leader has defended his government’s support for laws in favor of women, claiming that “a lot of women in Brazil love me” because he is against legalizing drugs.
Bolsonaro and former President Lula joined four other candidates in what was the first televised debate ahead of the October presidential election. The debate focused on a range of issues, including the economy, climate change and how the government is handling the Covid-19 pandemic, but was laced with personal attacks.
Bolsonaro has been forced on the defensive because of his handling of the economy, the climate crisis and the pandemic. The president claimed that Brazil’s economy was booming, despite record unemployment under his administration.
Meanwhile, Lula, the most popular candidate according to recent polls, denied corruption charges and defended his innocence.
Lula was convicted of corruption in 2017 and surrendered to federal authorities in April 2018 to serve a 12-year prison sentence. In 2021, however, the Supreme Court overturned the conviction, allowing him to run for president again.
“I was arrested so that you could be elected president, but then I was found not guilty. But I’m going to win now to see in one fell swoop what you so desperately want to hide!” Lula refers to Bolsonaro’s alleged attempts to hide information and weaken transparency since taking office.
Senator Simone Tebet, of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party and member of the country’s Covid-19 Parliamentary Committee, accused Bolsonaro of delaying Covid-19 vaccines and spreading fake news about the virus, a claim the president denied.
The three other candidates taking part in the debate were Soraya Thronicke of the Brasil Union Party, former Finance Minister Ciro Gomes of the Democratic Labor Party and political scientist and writer Luis Felipe D’Avila of the Novo Party.
This will be Lula’s sixth run for president with the Brazilian Workers’ Party (PT). He held the role from 2003 to 2011, leaving office with a 90% approval rating after lifting millions of Brazilians out of poverty during his stint in power.
However, his happiness did not last long. After surviving throat cancer in 2011, da Silva was convicted six years later of corruption and money laundering, following an extensive investigation into state oil company Petrobras.
The first round of Brazil’s presidential elections is scheduled for October 2, and officials have warned that the highly contested election could cause unrest.
Bolsonaro, who is behind Lula in opinion polls, has repeatedly cast doubt on the country’s electoral process, notably criticizing the use of electronic ballots – a system introduced in 2000. He has also called on the military to conduct a parallel “public” vote count.
Fachin said the election authorities would not accept interference from the federal government or the armed forces, adding that the Organization of the American States (OAS) has agreed to observe Brazil’s elections.
CNN’s Camilo Rocha and Marcia Reverdosa reported from Sao Paulo and Ivana Kottasova wrote from London.