File this under “things that are super easy to remember never to do”: make obviously racist comments while on live television.
For Univision style host Rodner Figueroa, the lesson was learned the hard way.
Speaking about make-up artist Paolo Ballesteros’ viral transformations into various celebrities, he said of Michelle Obama:
“Mind you, you know that Michelle Obama looks like she’s part of the cast of ‘Planet of the Apes.'”
And the crowd. Went. Silent.
It was more Rush Limbaugh than it was Joan Rivers, and that’s never a good thing under any circumstances.
Host Raúl de Molina attempted to save the situation by commenting that Michelle is attractive, but the damage was done.
Univision put out this statement:
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.
To his credit, Figueroa wrote a lengthy apology letter to the First Lady, Latino Rebels English translation of which reads:
Respected First Lady Michelle Obama,
I offer my sincere apologies for a comment I made about the characterization from what a makeup artist made about you during my appearance on Univision’s “El Gordo y la Flaca” entertainment program yesterday, and how it was misinterpreted.
I want to clarify that I am not racist in any way and that my comment was never directed towards you, but towards the characterization of that artist, who left much to be desired. The entire video clip in context will prove it.
I feel embarrassed and I apologize, because there is no excuse for a professional like me to make this type of comment, which can be interpreted as offensive and racist duing such volatile times in our country. I take responsibility for this lack of judgment on my part, but I cannot accept being called a racist by anyone and be dismissed because of it, and be publicly humiliated by Univision after 17 years in this business.
I come from a biracial Latino family, with family members like my father who are Afro-Latino. I am the first openly gay presenter on [U.S.] Hispanic TV and I’ve been an activist in favor of causes for minorities, as I have been discriminated against. I voted openly twice for you husband, Barack Obama, because I consider him a great man who respects minorities, like me, in this country.
I worked on two programs for Univision where I commented on the looks of many celebrities, including royalty and Latin American Firt Ladies and I have never offended anyone becuase of their skin color, sexual orientation or nationality. I am a decent person, but a human being after all, and I make mistakes like this. And with the fact that my comment has been interpreted in such an unpleasant and inappropriate (crossing the line) way, I do not deserve to be called a racist, and I have to defend myself out of respect and love for my family, my father, my fans and my community.
I was verbally notified that a complaint made from your office led to my dissmisal and through leaked information initiated from Univision executives, I am now being condemned on social media by those trying to destroy my career unfairly, without even having being notified officially in writing and without an investigation that would clariy the situation.
Again, I offer a humble apology for the misunderstanding and take responsibility.
Sure as hell beats Russell Tovey’s awkward Twitter half-apology.
We actually feel for the guy here — seems like an honest mistake.
Here’s the clip: