Univision star fired for Planet Of The Apes quip about Michelle Obama

MIAMI (REUTERS) – Spanish-language United States (US) television network Univision fired presenter Rodner Figueroa after he likened First Lady Michelle Obama to a cast member of the film Planet Of The Apes, the network said on Thursday.

Figueroa made the comment during an appearance on the popular talk show El Gordo y La Flaca on Wednesday while discussing the work of a makeup artist who works to copy the looks of famous people. “Look, you know that Michelle Obama looks like she’s part of the cast of the film Planet of the Apes,” Figueroa said in Spanish.

The comparison quickly drew accusations of racism against Figueroa. “Rodner Figueroa made comments regarding First Lady Michelle Obama that were completely reprehensible and in no way reflect Univision’s values or views,” the Miami-based network said in a statement. “As a result, Figueroa was immediately terminated,” the statement said.

According to reports, Figueroa said he was verbally notified that he was being fired because of a complaint from the US First Lady's office.

Figueroa had served as a fashion expert on Univision, among other roles, and he was seated next to the two main hosts of the show Raúl De Molina and Lili Estefan when he made the remark.

Estefan responded with, “What are you saying?” and De Molina interjected to say that Mrs Obama is attractive.

Figueroa, in an open letter to the First Lady posted on the website Latin World Entertainment, wrote in Spanish that his comments were not directed at Mrs Obama but towards the makeup artist who had sought to replicate her look. 

“I feel mortified, and I ask for your forgiveness, because there is no excuse for a professional like myself to make a comment like that which can be interpreted as offensive and racist in these volatile times that our country is experiencing,” he wrote.