Lifestyle

Delta Air Lines cuts ties with event honoring Brazil's president

Leader criticized for remarks

Atlanta, Ga. - Delta Air Lines and at least one other company are cutting ties with an upcoming event intended to honor Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro.

Bolsonaro is set to receive the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce's Person of the Year Award at a lush dinner at the Marriott Marquis in Manhattan on May 14. The far-right political figure won his country's election by a wide margin last year. But he's also controversial and has been steeply criticized for his homophobic, racist and misogynistic remarks.

Delta and Bain & Company, a management consulting firm, were among the sponsors for the event. They announced Tuesday that they would no longer be involved.

Delta declined to comment beyond confirming its decision. Bain said in a statement that "encouraging and celebrating diversity is a core Bain principle." And though the company remains supportive of the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce, Bain said it chose not to sponsor the 2019 Person of the Year gala.

The Financial Times reportedly pulled its involvement as well, according to CNBC, which reported news of the corporate fallout earlier Tuesday. The Times did not respond to a request for comment from CNN Business.

A host of other corporations — including Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Bank of New York Mellon, BNP Paribas, Citigroup, Forbes, HSBC, JPMorgan, UBS, Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley — also signed on as sponsors. Bank of America, Credit Suisse and BNY Mellon declined to comment to CNN Business about their role in the event. The others did not respond to a request for comment.

Marriott International, meanwhile, told CNN Business that "diversity and inclusion are part of the fabric of our hotel's culture and operations." The company has a history of prioritizing LGBT inclusion.

"We have welcomed all for over 90 years and focused on putting people first," the hospitality company said in a statement. "We are required by law to accept business even if it conflicts with our values. Acceptance of business does not indicate support, or endorsement of any group or individual."

Brazil's Bolsonaro, a far-right firebrand sometimes referred to as the "Trump of the Tropics," was elected in October and took office at the beginning of this year.

Before he was elected, he told a congresswoman that she did not deserve to be raped because she was "very ugly," Brazil's TV Globo reported. And he once said publicly he'd prefer to see his son "die in an accident" than a member of his family be homosexual.

He's also been broadly scrutinized for his policies that include scrapping protections for the Amazon rainforest, environmentally crucial terrain that's often referred to as the "Lungs of the World."

The Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce said on its website that Bolsonaro is being honored for his "strongly stated intention of fostering closer commercial and diplomatic ties between Brazil and the United States." The chamber did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Delta and Bain's decision to pull out of the event.

Pushback against his receipt of a Person of the Year award has been lead by environmental and LGBTQ activist groups, including GLAAD.

The American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan, where the awards gala was originally slated to take place, ditched those plans amid criticism from the organizations.

"[W]e hope the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce will follow suit and withdraw their award for an elected leader who is targeting LGBTQ Brazilians for unequal treatment under the law," GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement.

Corporations in recent years have become increasingly willing to take public stances on social justice issues and boycott events or sponsorships. Last year, for example, more than a dozen companies rescinded their discount offers to National Rifle Association members after the powerful lobby group opposed gun control reform in the wake of another high school shooting last year.

-- CNN's Kate Trafecante contributed to this report.


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