A Univision talk show host has been fired by the company after remarking that First Lady Michelle Obama looked similar to “the cast of Planet of the Apes.”
Rodner Figueroa was terminated from the popular “El Gorda y la Flaca” program last week following the comment, which a Univision spokesperson called “completely reprehensible” and “in no way a reflection of the values and opinions of Univision.”
“Mr. Figueroa was fired immediately,” the network said. His name and biography pages were quickly removed from Univision’s websites.
In a statement, Figueroa claimed his firing followed a complaint made by the White House over his remarks.
“I was verbally notified that, because of a complaint from [the White House], I was fired,” he said in a statement written in Spanish addressed to First Lady Obama as translated by CNN.
Figueroa said video clips shared on social media took his comment out of context, and that his remarks were intended to be critical of Obama’s makeup artist. Figueroa denied that his comments were racist, drawing upon his own background in which he claimed certainly family members “are Afro-Latino.”
Still, the former Univision host acknowledged that his comments were ill-conceived regardless of the context, and offered an apology to the Obama family.
“I openly voted twice for your husband, Barack Obama, because I consider him a great man who respects minorities like me in this country,” he wrote.
Univision told CNN Figueroa’s dismissal was not related to a complaint made by the White House.
Univision is the largest Spanish-language broadcaster in the country and the fifth-largest in America, reaching more than 90 million households coast-to-coast and in American territories via satellite and cable. It is owned by Univision Communications, which also operates television networks Unimas and El Rey and has a shared interest in the millennial-targeted cable news channel Fusion.
Matthew Keys is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.