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The American Museum of Natural History Cancels Event Honoring Brazil’s Far-Right President

After pushback from museum staff and prominent scientists, AMNH has decided “that the Museum is not the optimal location for the Brazilian-Am. Chamber of Commerce gala dinner,” which is set to honor Jair Bolsonaro.

The Milstein Hall of Ocean Life at the American Museum of Natural History (via paul.wasneski/Flickr)

The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York City announced today that it has canceled the booking of an event honoring Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro at one of its halls. The cancelation follows an apologetic statement by the museum last week, in which it said it was “exploring its options” in relation to the booking.

“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,” The museum wrote on its Twitter page. “This traditional event will go forward at another location on the original date & time”.

The announcement came after reports on an internal insurgency at the museum over the event. Staff members threatened resignation and boycotts if the museum does not cancel the booking of its Milstein Hall of Ocean Life for the gala. The group Decolonize this Place joined the workers with a warning to AMNH: “cancel the event or we shut it down.”

The “Person of the Year Awards” is an annual gala dinner hosted by the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce. The gala honors two people — one Brazilian, one American — who have had a major contribution to the economic ties between the two countries. Bolsonaro will receive the honor this year, as he rounds out a contentious first 100 days in office. In one of his first decisions in office, Bolsonaro issued an order to roll back rainforest protection in his country, allowing for more development and tree-clearing in the Amazon.

Last Friday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called Bolsonaro a “very dangerous human being,” and urged the museum to cancel the booking. “He’s dangerous not just because of his overt racism and homophobia, but because he is unfortunately the person with the most ability to be able to impact what happens in the Amazon going forward,” De Blasio told WNYC radio.

In a statement last week, the museum expressed its “deep concerns” over the event, and said it was exploring its options. The museum said that the event was booked in spring last year, before Bolsonaro was secured as an honoree.

The $30,000-a-seat tickets to the event have already sold out. The Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce told Hyperallergic in a phone conversation that a new venue has yet been secured.

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