Brazil: Brawl Erupts on Radio Show After Bolsonaro Debate Leads to Personal Insults

TV brawl
Panico/Screenshot

Producers of the Brazilian radio program Pânico, which broadcasts video of their conversations on YouTube, halted the broadcast Tuesday after a guest physically assaulted one of the show’s hosts, resulting in several men coming to blows on screen.

Pânico, a nearly 30-year-old radio program broadcast through Jovem Pan radio, offers a whimsical look at politics, the world of celebrity, and current events. It is no stranger to having guests and panelists resort to personal insults and has hosted physical altercations in the past, most prominently a fistfight involving American-Brazilian journalist Glenn Greenwald in 2019.

Greenwald shared the clip of the brawl on Tuesday, describing Pânico as a “shitty low-life right-wing program.”

Tuesday’s incident began as a debate between regular panelist André Marinho and guest Tomé Abduch, the header of the “To the Streets” conservative movement supporting conservative President Jair Bolsonaro. Marinho had once supported Bolsonaro but no longer did, and criticized Abduch for his continued loyalty to the president. Abduch argued that Bolsonaro had not achieved many of his campaign goals because he “can’t govern,” blaming leftist politicians in Congress and far-left protest groups and media for consistently criticizing him.

Marinho responded, according to a summary by the Brazilian outlet UOL, by referring to Abduch as a “crybaby” and attacking him personally for living in a home with business ties to Joao Doria, the governor of Sao Paulo. Brazilian political observers consider Doria one of the top candidates to challenge Bolsonaro in the 2022 presidential elections. As one of the country’s most vocal supporters of Chinese coronavirus lockdowns, Doria has become a prominent target of Bolsonaro supporters and of Bolsonaro himself, who has opposed economic restrictions to fight the pandemic.

Later in the discussion, Abduch began describing his experience looking for a home in 2018 and argued that the fact that he is a public critic of the governor showed courage.

“A man I consider a political evil, who is destroying Sao Paulo state, and I have the manliness to speak ill of him,” Abduch said, complaining that his political opponents have published his address online.

Abduch also attacked Marinho’s family and called him a traitor and a “child who isn’t worth his own underwear.” Shortly thereafter, the two began shouting over each other, making the discussion unintelligible until Abduch got up from his chair and ran over to attack Marinho. Another nine men appear to jump into the brawl.

The program’s coronavirus protocols are unclear. Abduch was sitting more than six feet from Marinho but next to other hosts and none on-screen appeared to be wearing masks, though some behind-the-scenes figures who jumped into the fray did appear to be wearing them.

Marinho issued a statement shortly after the altercation on Twitter describing Abduch as a “militant.”

“Dazzled by his own irrelevance, [Abduch], he took advantage of Pânico to offend me. He elevates his family, but only attacks mine,” Marinho wrote. “He tried to come off brave because he brought a security guard to put me in a chokehold and threaten me with his weapon.”

Marinho added that Abduch is “20 years older than me” and that he remained undeterred in his convictions as a commentator. He also posted a screenshot from the brawl showing a man involved in the fight, presumably the security guard he accused Abduch of bringing to the set, appearing to wield a firearm on his belt.

Abduch and his “To the Streets” movement have promoted his appearance on the program, but not issued any official statements on the altercation.

While the incident was uniquely violent for the program, Pânico has hosted heated, and even violent, moments in the past. Greenwald, who shared that he had been physically assaulted on the show, was a guest in 2019, following the publication at his former outlet The Intercept of alleged private conversations featuring then-Justice Minister Sergio Moro. Moro, who became a folk hero for Brazilian conservatives, was the judge who approved an investigation known as “Operation Car Wash,” which brought down dozens of politicians from several parties who allegedly took bribes from the corrupt contracting firm Odebrecht. Among those imprisoned over the probe was socialist former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The Intercept leaks reportedly tainted Moro as irredeemably biased in leading the Lula investigation, which prevented the septuagenarian from running for president against Bolsonaro in 2018.

Brazil’s Supreme Federal Tribunal, packed with Lula appointees, overturned his conviction this year on the grounds that Moro led a biased investigation. Lula’s case has been remanded to lower courts, meaning he could potentially be tried once again.

Greenwald appeared on Pânico to discuss the Intercept leaks alongside Veja journalist Augusto Nunes. The discussion became personal as Nunes had called for a Brazilian court to harass Greenwald and his husband, current Congressman David Miranda, over their adopted children. Greenwald repeatedly called Nunes a “coward” on the program for challenging him in this way, rather than addressing his journalism, before Nunes physically attacked him. The Pânico host at the time defended Nunes’ comments as “sarcastic” and mocked Greenwald’s self-defense.

Jovem Pan, the station that broadcasts the show, issued an apology following the incident to all involved, not just Greenwald.

Moro himself was on the radio show during his tenure as Justice Minister, a testament to its national influence despite its history of unprofessional incidents. During his appearance in January 2020, Marinho, the host involved in Tuesday’s brawl, mocked Moro’s voice, leading Moro to jokingly lament, “you can’t arrest journalists anymore, right?”

Moro resigned as Justice Minister in April of that year, accusing Bolsonaro of not allowing him the freedom necessary to properly investigate suspected incidents of corruption among Brazil’s most powerful politicians. Many of Bolsonaro’s supporters have since branded Moro untrustworthy and a “traitor.” Bolsonaro himself accused Moro of attempting to barter with the president for a position on the Supreme Federal Tribunal, a claim Moro denied.

More recently, Pânico courted controversy yet again with a July 2020 segment in which a guest described, clearly perturbed by it, a racist incident involving his stroller-aged child and the hosts responded with laughter.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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