Rodner Figueroa was fired by Univision Wednesday after making an on-air joke comparing Michelle Obama to an ape from Planet of the Apes. Figueroa penned an open letter apologizing to Obama, but also aired his gripes about Univision.
In the letter, the former host of Sal y Pimienta said that the only reason he was fired was that someone in the first lady’s office complained about the joke and that he now feels humiliated by Univision. Figueroa said his comments were taken out of context.
“I want to clarify that I’m not racist and in no way was my comment directed at you, but rather the work of the [makeup] artist, which left much to be desired,” the letter read.
Figueroa also said that he’s far from racist because he’s biracial, with Latino parents, one of whom is black. He also noted that he was one of the first openly gay personalities on Univision and even voted for President Barack Obama, twice.
“I’ve been an activist for causes in favor of minorities, as I have been discriminated against,” Figueroa wrote.
The comment that got Figueroa fired was aired during El Gordo y la Flaca while makeup artist Paolo Ballestero was showing how he uses makeup to transform into celebrities. When he showed the hosts his first lady transformation, Figueroa made the comment.
“Mind you, you know that Michelle Obama looks like she’s part of the cast of Planet of the Apes, the film,” Figueroa said.
So, basically, Figueroa is saying that his comment wasn’t about Michelle Obama per se but what he felt was a disservice done by Ballestero’s makeup artistry. Regardless of the context, comparing a black person to a primate is quite racist.
Let this be a lesson to Figueroa: Words, especially racist words, mean things, and they can cost you your job.