Brazil's Bolsonaro: It was wrong to say reporter had 'homosexual face'

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro looks on during a ceremony in Brasilia, Dec18, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

BRASILIA (AFP) - Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Saturday (Dec 21) that it was wrong for him to tell a journalist a day earlier that he had "the face of a homosexual."

"I was wrong. I shouldn't have said it," the country's far-right leader told reporters at the presidential residence in Brasilia, according to the news website G1.

The original comment by the notoriously outspoken president came in response to a reporter's question about an investigation into his eldest son, Senator Flavio Bolsonaro, for alleged money laundering when he was a regional deputy.

Pressed by the reporter, a visibly flustered Bolsonaro replied, "You have the face of a homosexual, but that doesn't mean I'm going to accuse you of being a homosexual."

His comments, while welcomed by some Bolsonaro supporters, sparked a sharp reaction from media groups.

The Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (ABRAJI) accused Bolsonaro, a frequent critic of the press, of "promoting the moral harassment of journalists... (whose work) is fundamental for democracy."

In an editorial on Saturday, the daily O Estado de S.Paulo, one of the country's largest papers, said Bolsonaro lacked "the necessary decorum for the job."

It said his behaviour "shames citizens and compromises the country's reputation."

Bolsonaro, who is nearing the end of his first year in office, told Playboy magazine in 2011 that he "wouldn't be able to love a gay son... I'd prefer a son to die in an accident."

On Friday, Bolsonaro lashed out at prosecutors in Rio de Janeiro for allegedly leaking information about the inquiry into his son.

"The investigation began last year and they've still found nothing," the president said.

Two days earlier, police had raided several properties owned by the younger Bolsonaro, by his former aides or by President Bolsonaro's ex-wife.

Flavio Bolsonaro - who has repeatedly denied wrongdoing - is suspected of having employed phantom employees whose salaries were then used to buy an apartment and a chocolate store.

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