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Macron calls out Bolsonaro's 'extraordinarily rude' insults against wife Brigitte

AFP | In this file photo taken on June 28, 2019 France's President Emmanuel Macron (L) and Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro attend a meeting on the digital economy at the G20 Summit in Osaka

French President Emmanuel Macron hit back Monday against the "extraordinarily rude" comments made about his wife Brigitte by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and his supporters on social media, calling them "sad" for Brazil.

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"He has made some extraordinarily rude comments about my wife," Macron said at a press conference when asked to react to statements about him by the Brazilian government.

"What can I tell you? It's sad, but it's sad most of all for him and for the Brazilians," he said.

A Bolsonaro supporter posted a message on Facebook on Sunday mocking the appearance of Brigitte Macron and comparing her unfavourably with Brazil's first lady, Michelle Bolsonaro.

"Now you understand why Macron is persecuting Bolsonaro?" he wrote next to an unflattering picture of Brigitte Macron, 66, who is 29 years older than Bolsonaro's wife Michelle, 37.

"Do not humiliate the guy, ha ha," Bolsonaro replied, in a comment widely criticised as sexist.

"I think Brazilian women will probably be ashamed to read that from their president," Macron went on to say.

"I think that Brazilians, who are a great people, will probably be ashamed to see this behaviour."

But Macron did not wrap up his comments without his own dig at the right-wing populist Brazilian.

"As I feel friendship and respect towards the Brazilian people, I hope that they will soon have a president who behaves properly."

Bolsonaro’s government saw its approval rating plunge to 29.4 percent from a previous level of 39 percent in February, according to a poll by CNT/MDA released Monday.

Bolsonaro has in the past insulted adversaries and allies, disparaged women, blacks and homosexuals, and even praised his country's 1964-1985 dictatorship. Yet nothing has rallied more anger at home and criticism from abroad than his response to fires raging in parts of the Amazon region.

The far-right populist leader initially dismissed the hundreds of blazes and then questioned whether activist groups might have started the fires in an effort to damage the credibility of his government.

On Monday Bolsonaro denounced Macron’s plan for an international alliance to protect the Amazon, saying on Twitter that it would mean treating Brazil like a colony.

Macron, in the run up to the G7 summit, had tweeted a photo of the burning Amazon forest, writing: “Our house is burning. Literally.”

The French president also said he had been lied to by Bolsonaro over his commitment to fighting climate change.

Since taking office in January, Bolsonaro has railed against the enforcement of environmental regulations and announced his intentions to develop the Amazon region -- where deforestation of the world’s largest rainforest by loggers, ranchers and speculators has surged this year.

The spat over spouses is not the first between the Bolsonaro and Macron administrations. Bolsonaro cancelled a meeting with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in July, opting to get a haircut instead in a widely publicised diplomatic snub.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

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