Leonardo DiCaprio has denied an unfounded accusation from Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, that he had funded the fires consuming the Amazon rainforest.
In a statement posted on his Instagram account on Saturday morning, DiCaprio wrote, “The future of these irreplaceable ecosystems is at stake and I am proud to stand with the groups protecting them. While worthy of support, we did not fund the organizations targeted.”
DiCaprio’s statement can be seen in full at the bottom.
On Friday, Bolsonaro appeared to be commenting on social media posts saying that the World Wildlife Fund had been paying volunteer firefighters for images that the organization would then use to solicit donations, Reuters reported. According to some of these postings, DiCaprio was one such donor who made a $500,000 contribution.
The Brazilian president had also criticized the actor and other non-profit organizations who were fighting to save the rainforest during a live webcast on Thursday, a few days after four members of a nongovernmental fire brigade were arrested and accused of purposefully setting fires in order to solicit donations. (The members were released on a judge’s order on Thursday, Reuters reported.)
“[WWF] makes a campaign against Brazil, it contacts Leonardo DiCaprio, he donates $500,000,” he said. “A part of that went to the people that were setting fires. Leonardo DiCaprio, you are contributing to the fire in the Amazon; that won’t do.”
Bolsonaro brought up DiCaprio’s name yet again briefly on Friday, saying, according to Reuters, “This Leonardo DiCaprio is a cool guy, right? Giving money to torch the Amazon.”
The WWF has denied paying for photos from the firefighters or receiving a donation from DiCaprio. “WWF Brazil rejects the attacks on its partners and the lies involving its name, including a series of lie-based social media attacks such as the purchase of photographs linked to a donation from the actor Leonardo DiCaprio,” WWF said in a statement, via English translation.
Other environmental conservation group leaders also issued statements on Saturday in support of DiCaprio and the NGOs working to conserve the rainforest.
“In the past few days, false accusations have been made to undermine environmental defenders and distract the general public from policies that directly lead to environmental like those across the Amazon earlier this year,” Wes Sechrest, the CEO and chief scientist for Global Wildlife Conservation, said in a statement. “We stand by those falsely accused of starting forest fires in the Amazon, and reaffirm our support to those who are dedicated to protecting one of our planet’s most vital and imperiled ecosystems.”
Jon Paul Rodriguez, the chair of IUCN Species Survival Commission, said the group was “concerned that there are increasing and targeted attacks on people and groups working to protect nature in the Amazon.”
“Environmental defenders, whether in local communities, NGOs, or government agencies, should be afforded with the highest protection of the law in Brazil,” Rodriguez said in a statement.