Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has canceled a trip this month to New York, backing down in the face of outrage in the city over his populist policies and his homophobic, racist and misogynistic remarks.
Bolsonaro had been due to accept a Person of the Year award from the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce, but his selection threw the glitzy gala into a crisis. It prompted dismay from activists and politicians and caused host venues and sponsors to dump the event.
The chamber confirmed Bolsonaro had scrapped the visit after the backlash. In a statement to Reuters and Brazilian media, his office blamed the decision on “the resistance and deliberate attacks by the Mayor of New York and the pressure of interest groups.”
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio had called Bolsonaro “a dangerous man” and welcomed the American Museum of Natural History’s decision last month to pull out of hosting duties.
The withdrawal is an embarrassment for the hard-line President, who has actively courted stronger diplomatic ties with the United States and has aligned himself closely with his US counterpart, Donald Trump.
But organizers had been scrambling to keep the May 14 gala on track after announcing Bolsonaro as the honoree, with Delta Air Lines, Bain and a handful of other sponsors dropping the event.
The far-right political outsider convincingly won his country’s election last year but has been slammed by critics both at home and abroad for his anti-environment and anti-equality moves.
He has supported removing indigenous communities from the Amazon rainforest and opening up the region for further mining, making the original host venue of the American Museum of Natural History awkward.
He once also told a congresswoman she did not deserve to be raped because she was “very ugly,” Brazil’s TV Globo reported at the time, and has said he would rather his son die than come out as gay.
“The only award that Jair Bolsonaro deserves is Bigot of the Year. We ran him out of town,” New York state Sen. Brad Hoylman said on Twitter after the Brazilian leader canceled the visit.
“Jair Bolsonaro is a dangerous man,” de Blasio said earlier. “His overt racism, homophobia and destructive decisions will have a devastating impact on the future of our planet.”
More than 60,000 people had also signed a petition calling on the New York Marriott Marquis, which had stepped in as host, to pull out as well.
Bolsonaro was set to be honored for his “strongly stated intention of fostering closer commercial and diplomatic ties between Brazil and the United States,” and he remains listed as the award’s winner. The gala, still scheduled for May 14, is also set to honor US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as its American recipient.