Leonardo DiCaprio Gets Blamed for Amazon Fires By Brazil’s Unhinged President

By Brazil's populist President, of course.

Leonardo DiCaprio Attends "The Revenant" Press Conference In Beijing
VCG/VCG via Getty Images

Leonardo DiCaprio is used to taking some heat from the conservative-leaning crowd.

Undercutting his environmental efforts by pointing out that he sometimes flies on private planes is such a basic part of the right-wing talking head playbook that a Google search reveals there are approximately 61 articles on that reference the matter.

Leave it to Brazil’s populist right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro to take the DiCaprio attacks to an entirely new level.

In remarks delivered in front of the Palácio da Alvorada (Brazil’s equivalent of the White House) this past Thursday, Bolsonaro directly accused DiCaprio of personally financing the fires in the Amazon. “This Leonardo DiCaprio is a cool guy, right? Giving money to torch the Amazon,” the politician said.

There’s been renewed international concern over fires in the Amazon rainforest since earlier this year.

While several social media posts regarding the fires contained misinformation, it is true that many organizations estimate that burning in the Amazon has increased since Bolsonaro took office in January.

Many have pointed to the president’s pro-business politics and generally lax enforcement of regulations to keep the fires under control. Bolsonaro reacted initially with indifference, but, under pressure, he has taken some steps to curb the problem. However, he has retained a generally combative stance against international interest in the issue, and believes that the fires are only of Brazilian concern. He’s also been eager to cast blame on just about anyone or anything else, and has rejected the idea that his policies are to blame.

DiCaprio, meanwhile, announced in August that his Earth Alliance charity would donate $5 million to help protect the Amazon. Bolsonaro claims that $500,000 of that donation went to the World Wildlife Fund. Though DiCaprio is a former board member of the organization and has donated generously in the past, the WWF denies that they collected any money from DiCaprio’s Amazon donation.

Bolsonaro meanwhile has latched on to a conspiracy theory that volunteer fire fighters are actually to blame for setting fires in the Amazon, ostensibly in order to receive aide money. Bolsonaro claims that the WWF bought photos from these allegedly shady fire fighters (which the organization also denies), and thus, his logic that DiCaprio is actually bankrolling Amazon arsonists.

Bolsonaro has now both directly implicated DiCaprio in a live broadcast on Facebook and in a speech to his supporters.

“Leonardo DiCaprio, dammit, you’re collaborating with the burning of the Amazon,” he said during the Facebook broadcast.

Bolsonaro has offered no direct evidence to back up any facet of these particular claims.

DiCaprio has now taken to his preferred social media platform, Instagram (which he uses almost exclusively to promote environmental causes), to refute the claims without mentioning Bolsonaro by name.

“The future of these irreplaceable ecosystems is at stake and I am proud to stand with the groups protecting them,” the actor wrote. “While worthy of support, we did not fund the organizations targeted. I remain committed to supporting the Brazilian indigenous communities, local governments, scientists, educators and general public who are working tirelessly to secure the Amazon for the future of all Brazilians.”

It is unlikely that DiCaprio’s direct refutation will curb the President’s rhetoric. Though it seems ridiculous for a world leader to blame the star of Once Upon a Time In Hollywood for a massive outbreak of fires in South America, facts and basic logic seem to matter little to the growing right-wing populist movement.