An award winning host on Spanish-language Univision has been fired after he made a racist comment about Michelle Obama. Rodner Figueroa told the world that he thought the First Lady looked like she was from the cast of Planet of the Apes during a segment on March 11.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Figueroa Was Talking About Paolo Ballesteros When Michelle Obama Came Up
Figueroa was the host of El Gordo y la Flaca. He was doing an item about Paolo Ballesteros. He’s the make-up artist who makes himself look like a range of celebrities.
While the host went through some pics of Ballesteros, one came up of him in blackface posing as Michelle Obama, and Figueroa said, “You know Michelle Obama looks like she’s from the cast of Planet of the Apes.” His co-host, Raul de Molina, replied, “I find her very attractive.” You can watch part of the segment above.
2. Figueroa Has Been Scrubbed From Univision’s History
In a tweet from Univision that came on the morning of March 12, the network said:
Yesterday during the entertainment program “El Gordo y La Flaca” Rodner Figueroa’s comments on First Lady Michelle Obama were completely reprehensible and in no way reflect the values or opinions of Univision. As a result, Mr. Figueroa was separated from the company immediately.
His profile was quickly scrubbed from Univision’s official website. Also removed was an article on the site celebrating his 2014 Emmy win. In response, Figueroa wrote on open letter to the First Lady:
Dearest First Lady Michelle Obama,
I offer my sincerest apologies for the commentary I made about you, using a portrait of you rendered by a makeup artist for Univision’s entertainment show “El Gordo y la Flaca” yesterday (Wednesday), and which was misinterpreted.
I want to clarify that I am not a racist, and in no way was my commentary directed at you, but rather the rendition of such artist, which left much to be desired. The whole clip of the video proves this with proper context.
I feel ashamed; I ask you for forgiveness, because there is no excuse for a professional such as myself to make comments that could be interpreted as offensive and racist in a moment where our country is living through such volatile times. I take responsibility for the lack of judgment on my behalf, but I can’t accept to be classified as a racist by anyone or to be fired for being such – humiliated publicly by Univision after 17 years in this company.
I come from a bi-racial Latino family, with relatives, such as my father, of the Afro-Latino race. I’m the first openly gay news personality in Hispanic TV, and I’ve been an activist of causes that favor minorities, that like me, have been discriminated against. I voted openly for your husband, Barack Obama, twice, because I think he’s a great man who respects minorities such as myself in this country.
I worked in two shows for Univision where I would comment on the look of many celebrities, including royal families, first ladies of Latin America, and I’ve never offended anyone for the color of their skin, sexual orientation or nationality. I’m a decent person, but a human no less, and I commit errors such as this one. And no matter how distasteful and out of line my comment might have been interpreted, I don’t deserve to be called a racist, and I have to defend myself out of love and respect for my family, my father, my fans and the community.
I was verbally notified that because of a complaint coming from your office I was fired, and because of leaked information by Univision executives, I was condemned in social media, trying to destroy my career in an unjust manner, without even giving me an official written notification and without an investigation that could perhaps clear the situation.
Again, I offer my humble apology for this misunderstanding, and I assume responsibility.
3. He Hosted ‘Fashion Police’ for Latino People’
On his Facebook page, Figueroa refers to himself as a “TV Host, Presenter, Stylist & Fashion Designer.” In a 2013 interview, Figueroa referred to his show as being like Fashion Police for Latino people. As the fallout to Figueroa’s remarks continued, the host was dropped from his contract with Colgate toothpaste.
4. He Won an Emmy for Outstanding Daytime Talent in 2014
In June 2014, Figueroa was honored with a Daytime Emmy award for his work on El Gordo y la Flaca. After winning the award, he told People, “We work for 50 millions Latinos and share with them because thanks to them we are on the map.”
5. He’s a Huge Fan of Target
In 2012, he gushed to Cosmopolitan about his love of Target. In the interview, he said, “Target is a store and brand that I love they have a super cool presentation, so they are a brand I always wanted to work with. They enjoy the work I do, incorporate them into the lines, and they share my Pinterest Boards with fans. Every woman wants to be fashionable regardless of her budget and Target offers that.”