Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro was photographed on Sunday night munching some pizza on a New York sidewalk ahead of the UN General Assembly. Enjoying a dollar pizza slice on the bustling streets of NYC could be considered a must-have experience for anyone visiting the Big Apple, but it appears the Brazilian leader’s impromptu homage to the viral sensation “Pizza Rat” might not have been out of choice.
Bolsonaro has not received a COVID-19 vaccination and restaurants in New York City are required to verify that diners are vaccinated before allowing them to eat indoors. Unless restaurateurs were willing to make an exception for the foreign dignitary, they would not allow the president to eat inside.
"Luxury dinner in New York," Luiz Eduardo Ramos, Brazil's secretariat minister, tweeted on late September 19 along with a photo of Bolsonaro and several top aides eating pizza outside a restaurant.
Brazil’s Health Minister, Marcelo Queiroga, can also be seen in the photograph, mid-way through a bite of pizza. Less than three days after the photograph was taken, Queiroga tested positive for COVID-19 and was forced to quarantine in New York for 14 days.
Along with repeatedly downplaying the threat of the virus, Bolsonaro has been accused of spreading misinformation and fears about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines. Speaking about the Pfizer vaccine in December 2020, he said: "In the Pfizer contract it's very clear: 'we're not responsible for any side effects.' If you turn into a crocodile, it's your problem. If you become superhuman, if a woman starts to grow a beard or if a man starts to speak with an effeminate voice, they will not have anything to do with it," he added.
He has also boasted about remaining unvaccinated in televised speeches. In November 2020, he said: “I am telling you, I’m not going to take it [the COVID vaccine]. It’s my right." He later suggested his decision to remain unvaccinated was a selfless act of leadership, claiming: “After the last Brazilian is vaccinated - and if there is a vaccine left over - I will decide whether to get vaccinated or not. That is the example a chief has to give. Just like in the barracks where the commander is the last in line.”
The restaurants of New York might not have been willing to bend the rules for Bolsonaro, but the UN General Assembly has taken a more relaxed approach for the world’s elites. After a bunch of controversies, the UN asked for all those who entered the General Assembly Hall to be fully vaccinated under an “honor system,” according to the Washington Post. Given that the Brazilian President spoke in the hall on Tuesday, it appears he has broken this unwritten code of conduct.