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CEO DATELINE – Museum cancels Brazilian-American Chamber event after public outcry

April 16, 2019
By Walt Williams

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The American Museum of Natural History in New York City has canceled a Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce event honoring controversial Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro after facing an internal and external backlash, the news site Gothamist reported Monday.

The Chamber had rented the museum’s Great Hall of Ocean Life to present Bolsonaro with its “Person of the Year” award at an upcoming gala where tickets sold for as much as $30,000, according to Gothamist. However, the politician has been blasted by critics for comments disparaging LGBTQ individuals and his country’s indigenous people. He also plans to open large swaths of the Amazonian rainforest in Brazil to logging and development.

The museum had no involvement with the gala other than leasing the space, but critics both inside and outside the institution said hosting the event amounted to a soft endorsement of Bolsonaro’s views. As a result of the pressure, the museum’s leadership and the Chamber announced Monday they had “jointly agreed” the building was not a proper location for the gala.

“With mutual respect for the work & goals of our individual organizations, we jointly agreed that the Museum is not the optimal location for the Brazilian-Am. Chamber of Commerce Gala Dinner. This traditional event will go forward at another location on the original date & time,” the Chamber said in a tweet.

The Chamber has not named a new location for the event, which is scheduled for May 14. A picture of the museum’s ocean hall was still on the webpage for the gala as of Tuesday morning. The description notes the Chamber has recognized a range of political figures as “Person of the Year” in the past, including former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.