Tucker Carlson’s new “documentary” style film about Brazil focuses on what he presents as China’s malignant influence and purported control over the country. Totally absent from the short movie, however, is the fact that Brazil’s crypto-Fascist President Jair Bolsonaro has said that if he loses in the next election next month, he might not accept the results. This omission tracks with Carlson’s history of embracing Bolsonaro’s illiberal policies, along with those of other authoritarian leaders around the world.
This looming, potential coup has alarmed many in the United States, including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Tim Kaine (D-VA). Sanders has spent weeks trying to whip support for a Senate resolution that would make clear that the United States would recognize the outcome of Brazil’s election, scheduled for October 2, as long as it was deemed legitimate by international outside observers. The resolution would also make it clear that the U.S. would not recognize any government that came to power through force or other irregular means. As of publication, no Republicans have signed on.
There are glaringly obvious parallels between Bolsonaro’s position and that of former U.S. President Donald Trump, who spearheaded a multipronged effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Republican opposition to the Sanders resolution is likely at least partly tied to Trump’s control of the GOP, and the risk of angering Trump by breaking with Bolsonaro.
Another possible explanation, which is not mutually exclusive from the first, is conservatives’ obsession with the so-called rise of China. It may very well be that Republican senators would happily support Bolsonaro’s illegal seizure of power if it meant opportunities for U.S. capital investment in the country and a strongman they could pit against China.
Carlson’s team traveled to Brazil in June to film in the country and has had ample time since then to include context about Bolsonaro’s threats to remain in power.
In July, Bolsonaro hosted foreign leaders to manufacture and legitimize unfounded voter fraud conspiracy theories, clearly laying the foundation for a potential extra-legal challenge to the election if he loses.
In August, Bolsonaro said there were only three available outcomes for him. “I have three alternatives for my future: being arrested, killed or victory,” he told a meeting of evangelical leaders, according to The Guardian.
That same month, The New York Times ran a massive story under the headline: “The Question Menacing Brazil’s Elections: Coup or No Coup?”
In short, the question of whether Bolsonaro will accept an electoral loss is not an ancillary question in next month’s contest, either in Brazilian or U.S. media and political circles.
Nonetheless, all of this information is absent from Carlson’s film, which instead portrays Bolsonaro as a bulwark against Chinese authoritarianism and imperialism.
“If Bolsonaro loses that election, China will certainly dominate Brazil,” Carlson narrates.
Carlson has a well-known admiration for foreign authoritarian leaders, including Bolsonaro. The feeling between the two of them is mutual. In June, Carlson aired an interview with Bolsonaro in which the leader heaped praise on the cable star.
“I can only say that you will be the most welcome in Brazil,” Bolsonaro gushed. “You would be an excellent counterpart to the other vehicles or outlets.”
That admiration is foregrounded in the new film. “In the past year, traditionally conservative governments like those in Chile and Colombia have been replaced by far-left leaders sympathetic to China,” Carlson says. “Bolsonaro is the only remaining pro-American head of state in all of South America.”
The clear takeaway for Carlson’s viewers is that Bolsonaro is a force for self-determination in the face of Chinese expansionism. The actual story is that Carlson and the conservative movement writ large are happy to export Trump-style election denialism if it will help them achieve their reactionary goals.