“Vera, I couldn’t expect anything else from you. You sleep thinking about me, you have some kind of passion for me,” Bolsonaro said, later accusing her of taking sides and lying. “You are an embarrassment for Brazilian journalism!”
Candidate Soraya Thronicke, who won a Senate seat in 2018 with Bolsonaro’s support, said she was “extremely upset” by his comments to Magalhães, calling them an example of a man who is “a pussycat with other men and comes to we (women)”. like a great tiger.”
Other candidates, including former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Ciro Gomes, expressed their solidarity with the journalist, since the issue distracted from the confrontation between the clear favorites, da Silva and Bolsonaro. Polls indicate they are likely to top the first round on October 2 and compete in a second round.
Senator Simone Tebet, whom Bolsonaro also called “a disgrace in the Senate”, said that he disrespects women with his attacks and then asked him directly: “Why so much anger against women?”
Bolsonaro’s aggressiveness tends to resonate with his die-hard supporters but alienates swing voters, according to Mário Sérgio Lima, a senior political analyst at Medley Global Advisors in Sao Paulo.
“He lost his composure with a female journalist, highlighting his Achilles heel, which is his high rejection among women,” Lima said. “This is very difficult to change in a campaign when you can’t hide your disdain for women in general, and they are more than half of the voters.”
According to a recent survey by the Datafolha pollster, 47% of the women surveyed intend to vote for da Silva and 29% for Bolsonaro. The survey of 5,744 people found that 29% of women could still change their vote. It had a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points.
Bolsonaro said his opponents were launching a “cheap attack” and defended his government’s record in helping women.
“Enough of victimization; we are all the same,” she said. “I passed more than 60 laws to defend women. And I am sure that a large number of Brazilian women love me because I defend the family and oppose the liberation of drugs.”
The last two stances are part of the conservative tone that helped Bolsonaro win in 2018, along with calls for God, for the homeland and a fierce resistance to the threat of socialism.
Da Silva had been the favorite in that race until his money laundering and corruption convictions took him out of the race and cleared Bolsonaro’s path to victory. The Supreme Court later overturned his convictions, ruling that the judge, who would later become Bolsonaro’s justice minister, had been biased.
The Associated Press asked the government last month to detail the several dozen measures Bolsonaro says his administration has taken to benefit women, but received no response.
Independent political analyst Thomas Traumann wrote in a report Monday that the “attacks on the senator and the Bolsonaro journalist will cost him.” Bolsonaro had tried to use his wife Michelle to improve his attractiveness to female voters, “however, the debate threw everything out the window.”
Traumann added that Tebet was the “headliner” of the debate, saying that he “systematically attacked Bolsonaro on all fronts and also provided consistent responses.”
Bolsonaro turned his attention to da Silva, known universally as Lula and leading every major poll to return to the post he held between 2003 and 2010. He repeatedly referred to the leftist former president as a “former recluse” and questioned da Silva about the impact of the great corruption in the state oil company Petrobras.
“His government was the most corrupt in the history of Brazil,” Bolsonaro said during the early exchange of fire.
The former president responded with a list of anti-corruption measures that his government introduced, including the creation of a database for the transparency of public spending and laws against corruption, organized crime and money laundering. And he noted great improvements in deforestation education and enforcement during his tenure.
Da Silva also reiterated that their now overturned convictions had been politically motivated to benefit Bolsonaro.
“Bolsonaro knows the reasons why they imprisoned me: … so that he could be elected president of the republic,” he said. “I am much cleaner than him or any relative of his.”
After the debate, Bolsonaro left the stage while others stayed behind to chat and shake hands.
___ AP reporter Mauricio Savarese contributed from Sao Paulo