There is an ever-growing perception that incumbent Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has a genuine chance of winning re-election in the October 30 runoff. Though he trailed former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva by more than 6 million votes in the first round, the most recent opinion polls suggest that gap is rapidly closing — polls which for months have underestimated the incumbent’s support.
But, if it were all left down to Mr. Bolsonaro himself, the situation would probably be different. This last week, he ended up in an image crisis of his own making, with his own words tying himself in knots.
Speaking to a podcast, Mr. Bolsonaro told a story of when he visited a poor community on the outskirts of Brasília. He said he got talking to a group of young Venezuelan girls, aged “14 or 15,” who he described as “cute.” He then spoke of a “vibe” between them, and he asked if he could enter their home.
Bad enough as it is, but Mr. Bolsonaro went one step further, inferring that the girls were, in fact, underage sex workers.
As the president’s declarations surfaced online, it became clear that the girls in question were having a “beauty day” at an NGO for refugees. Why Mr. Bolsonaro chose to omit that information in the interview is a mystery.
Regardless, the bizarre content of the video caused it to go viral, creating an immediate PR storm for the president. Indeed, he gave a live social media broadcast in the middle of the night to deny claims that he is a pedophile, and his campaign spent thousands on ads refuting the same thing.
In an election filled with misinformation, seeing presidential candidates denying stories spread by their opponents has become commonplace. But in this case, Mr. Bolsonaro was forced to debunk himself.