Portugal president in sexism row over cleavage comment
Portugal president is accused of sexism after pointing out a woman’s cleavage was on show and saying she was ‘prettier than her mother’
- Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa made the comments while on a walkabout in Toronto
Portugal’s president has been accused of sexism after he said a young woman was prettier than her mother and pointed to her cleavage, saying she would catch the flu.
Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa made the cringeworthy comments while on a walkabout in Toronto as part of his official visit to Canada this week.
The 74-year-old was greeted by excitable residents, including a mother and daughter of Portuguese origin, as he strolled about the city with officials.
The mother brought her daughter forward as she told the president they were both called Maria.
‘The daughter is more beautiful than the mother,’ Mr Rebelo de Sousa then rudely told the pair.
‘But the daughter might catch the flu, yet. Have you seen her cleavage?’ he added, before quickly walking away with a smirk on his face.
The Portuguese president told a young woman she might catch the flu as he pointed at her low neckline
The mother brought her daughter forward as she told the president they were both called Maria
The comments sparked backlash in Portugal, forcing the leader, who has become known for his conservative views, to issue a staunch defence.
‘It wasn’t a sexist comment. I didn’t think of it like that and neither did the young woman or the old ladies. It wasn’t sexist at all,’ he said.
He went on to contend that he had spoken to ‘several people but apparently only the comment to one young woman was filmed’.
But many weren’t impressed with his explanation, with women’s rights activists and political rivals demanding an apology.
‘He should apologise. Sexism is killing us. It’s not a joke,’ said Isabel Moreira, an MP in the ruling Socialist Party.
‘This is 2023. You can’t just walk up to a woman you don’t know and make a “joke” about her weight or about her cleavage.’
Manuela Silva, director of the Democratic Women’s Movement, said his remarks were made in a ‘lighthearted manner that undermines the dignity of women’.
‘In fact, the president talks too much and doesn’t say what he should,’ she said.
‘The daughter is more beautiful than the mother,’ Mr Rebelo de Sousa then rudely told the pair, who are of Portuguese origin
Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa quickly walked away with a smirk on his face after he made the comments
‘There’s a set of rights that have been won by women that are not being fulfilled, and this is what should concern the president, not poor taste jokes… I think he comes across very poorly,’ she told reporters.
Criticism of the president comes after comments he made over the ‘Kissgate’ scandal involving Spain’s football chief sparked yet more controversy.
When asked his thoughts on Luis Rubiales kissing Spain player Jenni Hermoso, Mr Rebelo de Sousa brushed it off, saying it was a ‘minor issue’ in comparison with the war in Ukraine.
Mr Rebelo de Sousa was in Canada for a five-day official visit last week, which included talks with prime minister Justin Trudeau.
Their discussions focused on the illegal working conditions faced by many Portuguese nationals living in the country, he said.
‘They are working hard in Canada, and I think there is a great openness from the Canadian government to solve the problem’, he told reporters.
The republic’s president also met and had dinner with Portuguese emigrants and Portuguese descendants at LIUNA, a union in the construction sector, before the end of his trip on Sunday.
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