Brazil's Bolsonaro says journalist 'wimps' more likely to die of COVID-19

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BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro continued his attack on journalists during a public event on Monday, describing reporters as “wimps” and saying they have a heightened chance of dying of COVID-19 because they are not athletic.

The right-wing former army captain has long had a fractious relationship with the media, frequently singling out specific newspapers and journalists for his ire. His followers have also attacked journalists at rallies and other public events.

On Sunday, Bolsonaro told a reporter, “I want to punch you in the face,” after the reporter asked about thousands of dollars that were transferred into a bank account of the president’s wife by a former aide who is now the target of a corruption probe.

During the Monday event, titled “Defeating COVID-19,” Bolsonaro described his own experience battling the virus in July, crediting his use of unproven drug hydroxychloroquine and his self-described history as an athlete for his mild symptoms. He has previously said he believed his athletic past made him immune to the worst of the coronavirus.

“That history of an athlete, the press feasted on it, but when (COVID-19) gets one of you wimps, your chance of surviving is quite a bit lower,” Bolsonaro told reporters on Monday, using the Portuguese colloquial word ‘bundao’.

“You only know how to do evil, to use a pen largely for evil. Your chance of surviving is quite a bit lower.”

Earlier this month, local media reported that the aide, Fabricio Queiroz, deposited 72,000 reais ($12,900) in checks into Michelle Bolsonaro’s account between 2011 and 2018.

Queiroz was an aide to now Senator Flavio Bolsonaro, the president’s eldest son, when he was a Rio de Janeiro state legislator. The former aide has been arrested in an investigation into bank deposits made at the time, amounting to 1.2 million reais.

($1 = 5.5920 reais)

Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu; Writing by Gram Slattery; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien