Univision Fires Rodner Figueroa for ‘Planet of the Apes’ Comments Against Michelle Obama

The following video is of poor quality but it shows Rodner Figueroa on “El Gordo y La Flaca” describing Michelle Obama’s physical features as being from the cast of the movie Planet of the Apes (El planeta de los simios in Spanish).

The video can be seen here or by clicking on this image:

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Univision confirmed today via a statement to Latino Rebels that Figueroa has been terminated for these comments against the First Lady:

Yesterday during our entertainment program “El Gordo y La Flaca” Rodner Figueroa made comments regarding First Lady Michelle Obama that were completely reprehensible and in no way reflect Univision’s values or views. As a result, Mr. Figueroa was immediately terminated.

The Venezuelan-born Figueroa no longer appears on the network’s site as well. As expected, the news is getting attention on social media. As of this morning, Figueroa’s Twitter profile still says the following:

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It’s 2015, people, and yup, racism still sucks.

UPDATE: Rodner has reportedly written a letter in Spanish to Michelle Obama.

Respetada Primera Dama Michelle Obama,
Le ofrezco mis más sinceras disculpas por un comentario que hice sobre la caracterización que hizo de usted un maquillista en el programa de entretenimiento de Univision “El Gordo y La Flaca” ayer, y que fue mal interpretado.

Quiero aclarar que no soy racista y de ninguna manera mi comentario fue dirigido hacia usted, sino hacia la caracterización de dicho artista, que dejaba mucho que desear. El clip completo del video en contexto lo comprueba.

Me siento abochornado, le pido perdón, porque no hay excusa para que un profesional como yo haga este tipo de comentarios que pueden ser interpretados como ofensivos y racistas en los momentos tan volátiles que vive nuestro país. Tomo responsabilidad por esta falta de juicio de mi parte, pero no puedo aceptar ser tildado de racista por nadie y ser despedido como tal, y humillado públicamente por Univision después de 17 años en esta empresa.

Vengo de una familia bi-racial Latina, con familiares, como mi padre, de la raza Afro-latina. Soy el primer presentador abiertamente gay en la TV Hispana y he sido activista de causas en pro de las minorías, que como yo han sido discriminadas. Yo voté abiertamente dos veces por su esposo, Barack Obama, porque lo considero un gran hombre que respeta a las minorías, como yo, en este país.

Trabajé en dos programas de Univison donde comentaba el look de muchas celebridades, incluyendo la realeza y primeras damas Latinas y jamás he ofendido a nadie por el color de su piel, orientación sexual o nacionalidad. Soy una persona decente, pero un ser humano al fin y al cabo y cometo errores como este. Y, con lo desagradable y fuera de línea que haya sido interpretado mi comentario no merezco ser tildado de racista, y tengo que defenderme por respeto y amor a mi familia, a mi padre, a mis fans y a mi comunidad.

Se me notificó verbalmente que por una queja de su despacho fui despedido, y en una fuga de información de parte de ejecutivos de Univision, se me condenó en las redes sociales tratando de destruir mi carrera de una manera injusta, sin siquiera haberme notificado oficalmente por escrito y sin una investigación que posibilitara esclarecer la situación.

De nuevo, le ofrezco una humilde disculpa por el malentendido y asumo la responsabilidad.
Muy respetuosamente,
Rodner Figueroa

The following is our quick translation of his letter. In short, according to the letter in Spanish, Rodner’s comments were taken out of context, since he was talking about Paolo Ballesteros’ tranformations. Figueroa’s letter blames a unnamed makeup artist at the beginning (very likely Ballesteros). Figueroa claims he was using the makeup artist’s own words. He also says that Michelle Obama’s office had complained to Univision about his comments.

Respected First Lady Michelle Obama,

I offer my sincere apologies for a comment I made about the characterization from what a makeup artist made about you during my appearance on Univision’s “El Gordo y la Flaca” entertainment program yesterday, and how it was misinterpreted.

I want to clarify that I am not racist in any way and that my comment was never directed towards you, but towards the characterization of that artist, who left much to be desired. The entire video clip in context will prove it.

I feel embarrassed and I apologize, because there is no excuse for a professional like me to make this type of comment, which can be interpreted as offensive and racist duing such volatile times in our country. I take responsibility for this lack of judgment on my part, but I cannot accept being called a racist by anyone and be dismissed because of it, and be publicly humiliated by Univision after 17 years in this business.

I come from a biracial Latino family, with family members like my father who are Afro-Latino. I am the first openly gay presenter on [U.S.] Hispanic TV and I’ve been an activist in favor of causes for minorities, as I have been discriminated against. I voted openly twice for you husband, Barack Obama, because I consider him a great man who respects minorities, like me, in this country.

I worked on two programs for Univision where I commented on the looks of many celebrities, including royalty and Latin American Firt Ladies and I have never offended anyone becuase of their skin color, sexual orientation or nationality. I am a decent person, but a human being after all, and I make mistakes like this. And with the fact that my comment has been interpreted in such an unpleasant and inappropriate (crossing the line) way, I do not deserve to be called a racist, and I have to defend myself out of respect and love for my family, my father, my fans and my community.

I was verbally notified that a complaint made from your office led to my dissmisal and through leaked information initiated from Univision executives, I am now being condemned on social media by those trying to destroy my career unfairly, without even having being notified officially in writing and without an investigation that would clariy the situation.

Again, I offer a humble apology for the misunderstanding and take responsibility.

Very respectfully,
Rodner Figueroa

Also, Rodner has begun to tweet again this afternoon, thanking Raúl de Molina for his support as well as Cristián de la Fuente, who also tweeted his support for Figueroa.

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