To say that Jair Bolsonaro and Jornal Nacional are like water and oil would be an understatement. Both are more like acid and base. Since 2018, or before, the news program that for decades informed the Brazilian Homer Simpson chose to make an inflexible opposition to the current president. Thus, he ended up alienating a portion of the public – precisely the common man with whom he communicated so well.
Hence why the interview with the reelection candidate was so awaited. I, for my part, prepared some Maizena biscuit sandwiches with a very warm Toddy to face the cold and the battle between the duo William Bonner & Renata Vasconcellos and Jair Bolsonaro. I even created a pool in the Billionaires group on Zap to bet on how many times the president would say “talky” and how many times the presenters would roll their eyes.
Before speaking of the interview itself, it is worth commenting on the supposed unimportance of the event. Now, if the president himself was willing to leave Brasília to be interviewed at the station’s studios, it is because he recognizes the power of Rede Globo. On a daily basis, Jornal Nacional may have abandoned Homer to talk only to the Lisa Simpsons of life. But you can bet that, when it’s time to talk to the nation’s top leader, even the most alienated Homer Simpson leaves YouTube to sit on the beat-up old sofa in front of the tube TV.
Now silence, the interview is about to start.
And it started heavy (but without pot, as some expected). An unshaven William Bonner, which was unthinkable a few years ago, was soon asking about a scam. But it was not in a mild tone, nor very polite. Bonner asked portraying Bolsonaro as a comic book villain. The president responded by exposing his doubts (those that everyone is already tired of knowing) about the electoral system and insisting on the speech that he just wants more transparency.
With a soft voice, there came the reply citing all the institutions that “certify the security of the ballot boxes” and speaking of “pride” of electronic voting machines. Then came the smile and that, I confess, took me apart. If there were any illusions, they were lost once and for all with that little smile. But I am not the subject of this text, but Jair Bolsonaro’s interview with Jornal Nacional. Faced with the condescending smile, Bolsonaro interrupted Bonner’s speech to say “Stay calm. We will have elections”.
More blow. Bonner criticizes Bolsonaro’s supporters, calling them (an enclisis!) of scammers and alienating part of his audience. But I think I mentioned that in the intro. Bolsonaro insists on defending freedom and even criticizes AI-5. Bonner interrupts and talks about “taking that stress away” and demands a commitment that Bolsonaro respects the outcome of the polls. More than that, he demands that Bolsonaro contain his supporters.
“Pandemic, candidate”, says Renata Vasconcellos before listing the sins of President Jair Bolsonaro: his personal stance against the vaccine, the use of hydroxychloroquine, the alligator. “You discouraged vaccination. This has nothing to do with freedom,” said the sophist, I mean, journalist. “Figure of speech?”, asks the journalist, and a surreal debate begins about the famous story of becoming an alligator. Am I really watching this?
Renata Vasconcellos insists on the pandemic and repeats the litany of the CPI on Covid. “Many saw this as a sign of lack of compassion”, says the journalist about some of the president’s postures during the pandemic. “Do you regret it?” she insists. Bolsonaro does with emergency aid and with the solidarity he sees as real, and not the symbolic and politically correct demanded by Vasconcellos. “So you call this ‘politically correct’?”, asks the journalist smartly.
The part of the interview that talks about the economy begins. Bonner paints a disaster scenario and, between the lines, accuses the president and the economic team of incompetence. More smiles. “The great vaccine of the economy was made in 2019”, answers Bolsonaro, citing the improvement in the unemployment rate. He also says that the whole world goes through difficulties. Realizing that the economy would not harm Bolsonaro, Renata Vasconcellos comes up with the talk of “encouraging deforestation”.
“One thing is natural fire and another thing is deforestation”, says Vasconcellos when Bolsonaro mentions forest fires. in Europe and the United States. Wow. “Who cares to protect a tractor used to fell trees?” asks an outraged Bonner, to which Bolsonaro unsuccessfully tries to explain that the Amazon is huge, the size of Western Europe, and that he just obeys the law. The “comply with the law” bothers Bonner, who passes the ball to his colleague. Vasconcellos then says that the world sees Brazil as a country that destroys forests. Image, image, image. Bolsonaro responds by saying that Germany has returned to using fossil fuels and says that there is a difference between reality and the “image”. Does it stick with the crowd?
In fact, I realize that the interview lacks questions aimed at Homer Simpson. Does all this have any relevance to the common man? While I’m thinking about it, Bolsonaro starts talking about agribusiness. “Let’s see if Brazil starts to change that image”, says William Bonner, changing the subject. And there comes talk about politics, Centrão, government base and other elite subjects. Time to open another paragraph.
“Why should betrayed voters believe you?” asks Bonner, who hears a firecracker. “You’re encouraging me to be a dictator,” says Bolsonaro, his only catchphrase so far, explaining that political agreements are necessary to advance reforms. Bolsonaro talks about Auxílio Brasil and says that the PT voted against the PEC of the Precatórios that allowed the payment of R$600 from the program. Upon hearing “the PT voted against”, Bonner insists on correcting the president.
Bonner does not speak in PT. He speaks of “previous governments”. And he mentions the boogeyman called Centrão again. “Have you always been from Centrão or have you never been from Centrão?”, asks Bonner. Bolsonaro curls up, says that in his time there was no Centão and amends: “What matters is that we are without corruption”. As Bolsonaro quotes the government team, Renata Vasconcellos interrupts him. “I’m going to talk about a very important subject for the future of Brazil: education”, says the journalist, making a serious accusation of corruption involving former minister Milton Ribeiro and pastors.
Bonner starts talking on interference with the Federal Police. The cameraman takes a close-up on the president, who shows signs of irritation. Bolsonaro mentions Moro and says that no one commands the PF that way. William Bonner mentions an association of Federal Police delegates talking about the erosion of the institution’s image. An association of Federal Police delegates. “Is it over?”, asks Bolsonaro when Renata Vasconcellos announces that the president has one minute for final remarks.
With surprising calm and a few levels above that of the interviewers, Bolsonaro delivers his final remarks. “We did our best to make the population suffer as little as possible,” he says. And he starts citing the government’s achievements. We did this and we did that. What is expected of him to say at that time. I look at the clock. 10 seconds left. Nine, eight, seven… “Is it over?” asks Bolsonaro. “I could stay here for hours talking.”