Dead wrong: Brazilian newspaper ridiculed after saying Queen has died

One of Brazil’s leading newspapers has been forced into a mortifying retraction after inadvertently announcing the death of Queen Elizabeth “at the age of XX”.

The Folha de São Paulo incorrectly reported the British monarch’s demise on its website at about noon on Monday, telling millions of South American readers she had died “as a result of XXXXXXXX”.

“Elizabeth will go down in history as the longest-reigning British sovereign,” the newspaper said in its 1,300-word tribute to a woman who remained very much alive.

Realising its royal mistake, the Folha deleted its premature obituary and blamed the bloomer on “technical error”.

“It is normal practice in journalism to prepare stories about possible and/or probable situations, such as the death of world leaders, celebrities and public figures. Folha regrets the error,” the newspaper said.

That, though, was not enough to prevent a deluge of online ridicule over the premature eulogy to the sovereign, whose last official visit to Brazil came in 1968. “God save the Folha,” tweeted one reader.

Referring to the assertion the monarch had passed away “age XX”, the comedian and actor Gregorio Duvivier sniggered: “How cute the Folha doesn’t want to reveal how old the Queen was when she died.”

Others questioned the decision to illustrate the article with a photograph in which the Queen seemed to be laughing at her own death.

Much of the jeering came from supporters of Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, a media-bashing rightwing populist who often attacks the Folha, just as his political icon, Donald Trump, attacks CNN.

Bolsonaristas seized on the slip-up as further proof that the newspaper – a frequent critic of Brazil’s radical leader – was a wellspring of leftist disinformation. “Folha, you are a veritable factory of fake news, claiming Little Lizzy has died,” one tweeted alongside a gif of Trump declaring: “Fake News!”

Oduwaldo Calixto, a conservative activist from Bolsonaro’s Liberal party, joked: “The Folha de São Paulo tried to kill the Queen of England to see if people would buy it. If they had, they’d surely have tried to kill president Bolsonaro too.”

“Will Brazil one day have real journalists again?” wondered Calixto, whose followers deride the supposedly communist Folha as the “Foice de São Paulo” (The Sickle of São Paulo).

Journalists themselves were far more forgiving, understanding that the Folha’s blunder could easily have befallen them, too.

“Newspaper’s nightmare: accidentally publishing someone’s obit. In this case, Queen Elizabeth. Eek …” tweeted David Biller, the Brazil news director for the Associated Press.

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