RIO DE JANEIRO - President Jair Bolsonaro on Thursday accused Brazilian prosecutors and the media of targeting his son in a corruption probe as an attempt to damage his administration, challenging critics to 'come at me.''
Bolsonaro, who took office Jan. 1, made the comments while on a visit to Dallas, Texas, to receive a person of the year award from the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce.
Several Brazilian news outlets have reported that Rio de Janeiro prosecutors believe Flavio Bolsonaro, now a federal senator, bought and sold real estate to launder millions of dollars while he was a state legislator. Flavio Bolsonaro denies any wrongdoing. The Associated Press could not confirm the accusations independently as prosecutors have publicly remained mum on the news reports.
'Do they want to hit me? Come at me,'' Bolsonaro said. 'They will not get me. Wings of the media, which you are a part of, are not happy with my administration, an administration of austerity, responsibility with public money.''
Bolsonaro, a frequent critic of the media, insulted a reporter when she asked about big demonstrations held Wednesday across Brazil to protest his proposed cuts in education funding.
'First of all, you work for Folha de S.Paulo,'' Bolsonaro said, referring to a Brazilian newspaper that he frequently criticizes. 'You need to go to a proper college again and do good journalism. That is what Folha needs to do and not hire anyone to be their journalist, sowing disagreements and asking silliness, publishing disgusting things.''
Bolsonaro was originally scheduled to receive the award in New York, but it was moved to Texas after difficulties in finding a venue and sponsors dropping out. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio openly campaigned for Bolsonaro not to be welcomed in the city, calling him 'a dangerous man.''
In Dallas, Mayor Mike Rawlings did not take part in any of the events for Bolsonaro on Wednesday or Thursday. Several city council members openly criticized Bolsonaro upon his arrival.
On Wednesday, Bolsonaro paid a visit to former U.S. President George W. Bush, a critic of U.S. President Donald Trump, someone Bolsonaro openly admires.
Bolsonaro won Brazil's presidency last year with an anti-corruption and pro-gun message. The former army captain was one of the few candidates not caught up in the 'Car Wash'' probe into a mammoth scheme of companies receiving inflated government contracts into for kickbacks. The investigation has roiled many top politicians and businessmen in Latin America's largest nation and beyond in the region since beginning in 2014.
Bolsonaro drew widespread criticism, both in Brazil and abroad, for a long history of insulting comments about indigenous peoples, blacks, gays, intellectuals and artists.
So far, his presidency has been mired in internal fights. Swelling allegations against his son, Flavio, have raised questions about whether Bolsonaro will have zero tolerance for corruption, as he campaigned, when it comes to a family member and key adviser.
Since taking office, Bolsonaro's approval ratings have dropped significantly, the Brazilian real has lost ground against the U.S. dollar and many groups opposing him have shown organizing strength.