Fired Host Rodner Figueroa Apologizes to Michelle Obama, Blames Univision

Figueroa also accuses network of trying “to damage my career” in open letter

Rodner Figueroa wants Michelle Obama to know that he’s sorry for what he said about her. And that he’s not a racist.

Figueroa, who was fired from Univision’s “El Gordo y la Flaca” after he said that First Lady Obama “looks like she’s from the cast of ‘Planet of the Apes,'” has issued a profuse apology to Obama in an open letter obtained by TheWrap.

“I offer my sincere apology for an unfortunate comment I made about a makeup artist’s depiction of you on Univision’s show ‘El Gordo y La Flaca’ yesterday. It was clearly in bad taste and misunderstood,” Figueroa’s letter began. “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.”

Nonetheless, despite the apparent misinterpretation, Figueroa admitted 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, who had been with Univision for 17 years, went on to deny that he’s bigoted, noting that that he comes from “a multi-racial Hispanic family” with an Afro-Latino father, and that he himself is “the first openly gay Hispanic TV host.”

The letter ended with a dig at Univision, which Figueroa claims smeared him in the media without giving him a chance 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.”

Figueroa got the ax after an “El Gordo y la Flaca” segment during which he and co-hosts Raul De Molina and Lili Estefan discussed a viral video in which a makeup artist transforms his face to resemble a number of 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.

On Thursday, Univision announced that it had fired Figueroa, calling his comments “completely reprehensible and in no way reflect Univision’s values or views.”

Read Figueroa’s full apology below.

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 judgement 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.

Very respectfully,

Rodner Figueroa