The BBC has sparked an angry backlash after one of its Twitter accounts asked whether Brazil’s new President Jair Bolsonaro was “racist, sexist, homophobic or a refreshing break from political correctness?”
The tweet, sent from BBC Monitoring—which monitors and reports on global mass media—linked to an article with some offensive statements from Bolsonaro, who was elected on Sunday (October 28) by a large margin despite numerous anti-gay comments.
BBC Monitoring deleted the tweet on Monday (October 29), three days after it was posted, and wrote on Twitter: “We have removed an earlier tweet about statements made by Brazilian Jair Bolsonaro.
“The intention was to reflect the spectrum of opinion on such statements but the language of the post may not have reflected this accurately.”
When asked if BBC Monitoring would be apologising for the tweet, BBC’s press office told PinkNews this was the only statement being made on the subject.
He has a long history of anti-gay comments, once commenting: “Yes, I’m homophobic—and very proud of it.”
Earlier this year, he reiterated his promise to punch two men in the street if he saw them kissing.
The President-elect, who served as an army captain under Brazil’s brutal 21-year-long dictatorship, also said in 2015 that hospital patients should be allowed to reject ‘gay blood.’
And in 2013, during an interview with British actor and activist Stephen Fry, Bolsonaro said campaigners calling for LGBT+ equality “want to reach our children in order to turn the children into gay adults to satisfy their sexuality in the future.”
The BBC’s original tweet and subsequent explanation of why it was removed have both been subjected to furious criticism on Twitter, with one user writing: “Never have I been more utterly disgusted by the BBC than I am reading this headline.”
“You should be thoroughly ashamed of yourselves.”
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Many condemned the idea that should be a debate about whether violent rhetoric against prejudiced groups was good or bad.
“So nice for women, LGBT people and minorities to know that the BBC thinks it’s a toss-up whether persecuting them is bad or ‘refreshing,'” wrote one tweeter.
She added: “Should we get to live our lives? Or would it be refreshing if we were all exterminated? Just two completely equivalent sides of the rich spectrum of opinion!”
In this vein, another person wrote: “I’m incredibly disappointed in @BBCMonitoring,” adding that “I thought I could trust the BBC but apparently rape and murdering gay people is a ‘refreshing break’ to them.”
A different commenter called for the BBC to “have some BASIC decency here. He has openly called for mass murders. He’s talking about ‘cleansing’ Brazil.
“He told a woman he wouldn’t rape her because she’s too ugly. He is the textbook definition of a fascist and you’re still tiptoeing around him? Have some shame.”
Another said: “I don’t think you should be trying to find a ‘spectrum of opinion’ when talking about a fascist. Do you also view Hitler as a ‘refreshing break from political correctness’???”
There were others who drew the same comparison between Brazil’s new leader and Nazi Germany, with one such person writing: “You are either utterly clueless or utterly complicit.
“How would you have ‘reflected’ the ‘spectrum of opinion’ on Nazism in 1933? ‘Some say the new chancellor is an antisemite bent on war and genocide; others say he is merely reflecting the opinions of millions of people.'”