Rodner Figueroa reportedly claims that he was booted from the Univision network only after a telephone call from Michelle Obama’s office.
The talk show host and fashion commentator made headlines this week when he compared the First Lady to a cast member of Planet of the Apes during a live broadcast of El Gordo y la Flaca.
He shocked two other panelists on the show, and perhaps the viewers watching at home, when he said, according to one translation, “Well, watch out, you know that Michelle Obama looks like she’s from the cast of Planet of the Apes, the movie.”
He was out of a job approximately 24 hours later.
“Rodner Figueroa’s team tells TMZ… no one from the station or social media uttered a peep when he said Wednesday morning that a makeup artist who transformed himself into Michelle Obama, looked like a member of the Planet of the Apes cast. The team claims at 10:20 PM Wednesday they got a call from a Univision exec who said Michelle Obama’s office called the network to complain.”
On Thursday, Univision released the following statement about Figuero’s status with the network.
“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.”
Following this incident, Univision quickly scrubbed any mention of Figueroa from its website.
After his firing, the ex-Univision personality and 2014 Daytime Emmy Award winner penned a long open letter to Mrs. Obama in which he extensively apologized for his lack of judgment. Figueroa rejected claims that he was a racist, however, pointing out among other things that he is from a biracial family, is the first openly gay Hispanic TV presenter, and voted for Barack Obama twice. He also insisted that his offensive commentary was an assessment of the makeup artist’s work and not directed at Michelle Obama personally.
“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,” he added.
Univision claims it had no contact with Michelle Obama until after the fact. The network indicated that it “informed the White House of the situation” after the internal decision was made Wednesday night to dismiss Figueroa, The Washington Post reported.
The Heavy.com website noted that “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.”
That being the case, it would appear there was some police misconduct in this version of Fashion Police. “Let this be a lesson to Figueroa: Words, especially racist words, mean things, and they can cost you your job,” The Root website observed.
Alluding to an alleged lack of diversity on the network, an NYU professor who studies Latino media quoted by NPR claimed that “the Univision landscape is often whiter than mainstream U.S. television.”
Do you think that Univision acted appropriately in firing Radnor Figueroa after 17 years whether or not Michelle Obama’s office played a role?
[image via Twitter]