Emmy-winning host and fashion expert Rodner Figueroa is apologizing to Michelle Obama for the racist comments he made about her during a show on the Spanish-language network Univision on Wednesday.
Figueroa, who was fired that same day, broke his silence in a letter released Thursday, offering his most sincere apologies and saying his comments were misinterpreted. During the live broadcast, the 42-year-old said the First Lady “looks like she was from the ‘Planet of the Apes,’
“I would like to clarify that I am not a racist and my comments were in no way directed toward you, but toward the characterization made by the makeup artist,” he wrote in Spanish.
“I am embarrassed, I ask for forgiveness, because there is no excuse for a professional like me to make comments like this that can be misinterpreted as offensive and racist during such a volatile time in our country.”
He continued: “I take responsibility for this error in judgment on my part, but I cannot accept being called a racist and fired like this, humiliated by Univision, after 17 years there.”
“I come from a bi-racial Latino family, with family members like my father, who are Afro-Latino. I am the first openly gay host on Spanish-language television and I have been an activist for causes to help minorities, who like me have been discriminated against,” Figueroa explained.
Figueroa made his comment during a segment of “El Gordo y la Flaca,” when the hosts were talking about make-up artist Paolo Ballesteros, who has been making headlines recently for transforming himself into celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Lopez, Ariana Grande, Jennifer Lawrence, Cher and the First Lady.
It was while showing Ballesteros' transformation of himself turning into Obama that Figueroa made his comment.
On Thursday, Univision issued a statement confirming Figueroa's departure from the network.
“Yesterday during the entertainment program ‘El Gordo y La Flaca,’ Rodner Figueroa made some comments about First Lady Michelle Obama that were completely reprehensible and in no way a reflection of the values and opinions of Univision. As a result, Mr. Figueroa was fired immediately,” statement read.
Figueroa no longer appears on Univision's talent page.
In his letter, the Venezuelan-American host wrote that Univision gave him a verbal notification of his departure. He claimed network executives leaked the news and “condemned me on social media, trying to destroy my career in an unjust manner, without even officially notifying me in writing nor without a proper investigation of the situation.”
Soon after the news of Figueroa’s departure was made public, Lili Estefan and Raul de Molina, hosts of “El Gordo y la Flaca” defended their ex-co-host saying that calling him a racist is “ridiculous.”
“I think Rodner was definitely wrong (in what he said), but calling him a racist is ridiculous,” Estefan told People En Español. “Rodner is someone who makes fun of himself. For those who don’t know it, his father is Black.”
De Molina said: “I’ve known Rodner since we worked together in Telemundo… Although we have our conflicts in front of the camera, I love him dearly. I don’t think his comment had a racist undertone, of that I am sure. Rodner is indispensable to ‘El Gordo y la Flaca.’”