Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro launched into a fiery tirade against the media Wednesday over a report on his alleged ties to the murder of Marielle Franco, a prominent left-wing activist who was shot execution-style early last year.
In a 20-minute live stream recorded from his hotel room in the Middle East – where he has spent the week on a diplomatic trip – Bolsonaro forcefully denied any involvement in Franco’s murder and accused the “foul, lowlife, immoral media” of trying to undermine his government.
“I have no reason to kill anyone in Rio de Janeiro,” he said. “This will not stick.”
In March, authorities charged former Rio de Janeiro police officers Ronnie Lessa and Elcio Vieira de Queiroz in Franco's killing, but questions about who ordered the murder remain unanswered.
Brazilian media outlet TV Globo reported Tuesday that hours before Franco's killing, de Queiroz told the doorman of a gated community that he was visiting Bolsonaro’s residence. But after he was let in, he visited Lessa instead, according to the station.
The doorman later told the TV news program Jornal Nacional that he had called Bolsonaro who allegedly told him to let de Queiroz through. When he notified Bolsonaro that de Queiroz was driving to Lessa’s house instead, Bolsonaro allegedly said to let him continue, according to the report.
Later that night, Franco was gunned down in her car while heading home. As the only black woman elected to Rio’s 51-person city council and a champion of human rights, Franco’s death stoked international outrage.
Bolsonaro, who was in Brasilia the night of Franco's murder, threatened to take away TV Globo’s broadcasting license during his Facebook live stream.
“Why this scheming?” he said. “Let me govern Brazil! And you, TV Globo, you make my life hell, damn it.”
The allegations come at a time of immense pressure for the embattled president. Human rights activists have accused Bolsonaro of enabling illegal police killings, undermining anti-torture initiatives and blocking the prosecution of groups that caused fires in the Amazon this year.
Bolsonaro lawyer Frederick Wassef later appeared on television to deny the allegations of Bolsonaro’s involvement in Franco’s killing.
“It’s a lie, a typo, something,” he said. “I say this with absolute certainty and challenge anyone to prove otherwise. It is a lie, a fraud, a scam, to attack the president of the republic.”
The Associated Press contributed to this result.