Fired Univision Host Sends Letter of Apology
Days after being fired for saying First Lady Michelle Obama “looks like she’s from the cast of ‘Planet of the Apes,’” Rodner Figueroa is making nice with an open letter as he calls out Univision for attempting “to damage my career.”
In the letter, which was obtained by TheWrap.com, Figueroa apologizes for what he said. The letter stems from Figueroa’s dismissal from the network’s entertainment news show “El Gordo y la Flaca” last week after being with Univision for 17 years. During a segment on “El Gordo y la Flaca,” Figueroa talked to co-hosts Raul De Molina and Lili Estefan about a viral video featuring a makeup artist transforming his face to look like various celebrities, including Obama.
“Well, watch out, you know that Michelle Obama looks like she’s from the cast of ‘Planet of the Apes,’ the movie,” Figueroa said.
Regarding the termination, Univision labeled Figueroa’s comments “completely reprehensible and in no way reflect Univision’s values or views.”
In his letter, Figueroa attempted to make amends while admitting that “there is no justification for someone at my level to make any kind of comment that could be interpreted as offensive or disrespectful to you personally, or to any minority in the times we live.”
Figueroa goes on to mention that he is “the first openly gay Hispanic TV host,” in addition to coming from “a multi-racial Hispanic family” with an Afro-Latino father.
As he wrapped up the letter, Figueroa signs off slamming Univision with claims the channel smeared him in the media without allowing him to explain himself.
“In an attempt to what I believe was a move to damage my career, Univision leaked this information to the media and I have been condemned for my comments in social networks and the media,” Figueroa wrote. “I never received an official written notice of termination or an opportunity to clear the situation and provide my side of the story.”
The following is Figueroa’s open letter of apology to Obama in its entirety:
March 12, 2015
Esteemed First Lady Michelle Obama,
I offer my sincere apology for an unfortunate comment I made about a make-up artist’s depiction of you on Univision’s show “El Gordo y La Flaca” yesterday. It was clearly in bad taste and misunderstood.
I would like to explain that my remark was not directed at you, but at the result of an artist’s depiction of you that I found wasn’t accurate. The entire video clip in context corroborates this.
I feel embarrassed, and I hope you can forgive me, because there is no excuse. As a professional, I hold myself to high standards and there is no justification for someone at my level to make any kind of comment that could be interpreted as offensive or disrespectful to you personally, or to any minority in the times we live. I accept full responsibility for this lack of judgment on my part, but I cannot accept being labeled a racist by Univision, for whom I have worked for 17 years, or to anyone who may have misinterpreted my comments.
I come from a multi-racial Hispanic family, with relatives, like my own father, who are Afro-Latino. I am the first openly gay Hispanic TV host and I’ve been a minority activist throughout my career, championing a number of causes geared towards supporting minorities; people who, like me, have been the focus of discrimination. Moreover, I openly voted twice for your husband Barack Obama, because I esteem him as a great man who has done a great deal for minorities in this country.
I’ve worked on two entertainment shows at Univision where I have commented on the look of many celebrities, including royal families and First Ladies of Latin America. I’ve never critiqued anyone because of his or her skin color, sexual orientation or nationality. I am, in my humble opinion, a decent person, but at the end of the day, a human being.
I’ve made my share of mistakes, but never like this. And, as distasteful and out of line as my comment could have been perceived, I don’t believe I deserve to be branded a racist. I hope you understand that I have an obligation to defend myself out of respect and love for my family, my father, my fans and my community.
I was notified verbally in a phone call by a Univision executive that, because of a complaint received from your office, my employment was being terminated. In an attempt to what I believe was a move to damage my career, Univision leaked this information to the media and I have been condemned for my comments in social networks and the media.
I never received an official written notice of termination or an opportunity to clear the situation and provide my side of the story.
Again, I offer a humble and sincere apology for the misunderstanding, and assume my responsibility.