For the American media, this is almost as good as if Donald Trump himself had contracted the coronavirus.
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, who spent months downplaying the severity of the coronavirus, announced that he had contracted COVID-19 and was isolating himself in the presidential palace.
Bolsonaro credited hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin for his so-far mild symptoms. Like Trump, the Brazilian president had been hyping the anti-malarial drug as an effective treatment for the coronavirus. And like Trump, he firmly believes that lockdown measures are more harmful than helpful in the crisis.
In one typical report on Bolsonaro’s condition, the UK Guardian was in full gloat.
“Bolsonaro, 65, has repeatedly trivialized the pandemic and flouted social distancing, even as Brazil became the second-worst hit country after the United States, with more than 65,000 deaths and 1.6 million confirmed cases,” the UK Guardian recalled in a characteristic report about the irony, or ironic microbial justice, of the tough-talking Brazilian president contracting the disease.
Bolsonaro’s son Carlos was livid with the media’s reaction.
Another of Bolsonaro’s sons, Carlos, lashed out on Monday night against “the immense number of people rooting for the death of the head of the executive right now” and called for an “immediate show of solidarity from other leaders.”
Speculation about Bolsonaro’s health was rampant after he began complaining of exhaustion on Sunday and showing possible symptoms of the disease.
The Brazilian president gave an interview to CNN Brazil in which he defended his government’s response to the virus.
“No country in the world has managed to prevent deaths,” he said. “The whole world was unanimous in saying that the purpose of the isolation measures… was not to prevent people from contracting the virus but that the contraction was inevitable and it should happen over a longer time for hospitals to be equipped with ICU beds and respirators.”
Bolsonaro has long maintained that lockdowns will hurt the country more than the virus itself. “Our life has to go on. Jobs should be maintained,” he said during a March 24 speech broadcast on national television and radio.
He held onto that position as Brazil’s outbreak dramatically worsened, criticizing governors and mayors for introducing stringent lockdown measures in an attempt to curb cases.
That theory is being tested in the U.S. as ICUs in Florida are reaching capacity and Texas isn’t far behind. Both states embraced reopening their economies more quickly than some others, leading to the obvious, simple-minded media conclusion that both states — governed by Republicans — opened “too early.”
But you can’t keep states shuttered forever. When New York and Illinois fully reopen — and they will even when cases begin to spike — their ICUs will also begin filling up with sick people. The Democratic governors of those states will try pulling back a bit, or initiating regional or local lockdowns — but it won’t work. As soon as the lockdown takes effect in one area, another place will become a “hot spot.” It’s like playing “whack-a-mole” with the virus. And you can’t win that game.
Both Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro have approached the coronavirus pandemic similarly. Whether or not they will be proved “right” will depend on your point of view and whether you look at the problem with some degree of objectivity. Of course, that’s not possible in politics. And there are no metrics that will truly define success or failure.
What isn’t in dispute is the media’s rancid, nauseating partisanship that places them beyond the pale in covering the pandemic.