Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro attends a ceremony marking the 211th anniversary of Brazilian Marine Corps in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, March 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
RIO DE JANEIRO –Brazil’s Bar Association condemned President Jair Bolsonaro on Monday over a Twitter attack on a journalist who has written critical pieces about the first family for one of the country’s largest newspapers.
Bolsonaro sent a misleading tweet Sunday night saying that Constanca Rezende of the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo had been recorded saying she wanted to ruin the life of Bolsonaro’s son, Flavio, and impeach the president.
Bolsonaro’s attack “shows not only a lack of commitment to the facts, but also more seriously the use of his position of power to try to intimidate media outlets and journalists,” the Bar Association said in a statement.
Rezende has reported on a corruption scandal that has cast a shadow over the initial months of the administration. The scandal involves alleged irregular payments to Flavio Bolsonaro, a senator who is Bolsonaro’s eldest son, as well as to Bolsonaro’s wife, Michelle Bolsonaro.
In the audio, Rezende told a man who claimed to be a university student researching a paper, “This case can put in a bind and ruin Bolsonaro.”
She also said she believes the case could lead to impeachment. In 2016, then President Dilma Rousseff was impeached and removed from office for illegally managing the federal budget.
In one part of the audio, Rezende, speaking in English, expressed concern that nothing would come of the investigation, a common fate of many probes in Latin America’s largest nation.
When asked about documents in the case against Flavio Bolsonaro, widely reported in Brazilian media, Rezende explained she got confidential documents about audits through sources.
The audio has several pauses and incomplete phrases.
In the tweet, Bolsonaro said journalists wanted “to topple the government with blackmail, disinformation and leaks.”
Bolsonaro also said Rezende was “the daughter of Chico Otavio, an employee of O Globo,” a daily newspaper part of the Globo conglomerate that is frequently a target of Bolsonaro’s attacks.
Meanwhile, questions were mounting about the audio’s origins. The audio was first shared Sunday by the rightist website Terca Livre, and Estado de S. Paulo reported that the author of the Terca Livre story was on the staff of a state legislator from Bolsonaro’s party.
There were also questions about whether Rezende was set up, similar to the way rightist groups in the U.S. have presented fake sources to journalists and recorded them without their knowledge.
Estado de S. Paulo reported that Rezende was contacted by someone named Alex McAllister, who “was supposedly a student interested in doing a comparative study between Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro.”
McAllister and Rezende spoke on Jan. 23, according to the paper.
The male voice speaking to Rezende in American English sounds as if it’s been put through a filter.