In the hopes of getting his job back and salvaging his career, fired Univision host Rodner Figueroa has publicly apologized to First Lady Michelle Obama for a segment in which he appeared to compare her to an ape. He is also pulling his Gay Progressive Card as a shield against those accusing him of racism:
I come from a bi-racial Latino family, with relatives, like my father, of the Afro-Latino race. I am the first openly gay host on Hispanic television and I have been an activist for causes in favor of minorities who, like me, have been discriminated against. I openly voted twice for your husband, Barack Obama, because I consider him a great man who respects minorities, like me, in this country.
This is a smart move on his part. Actor Alec Baldwin is a serial-homophobe, but thanks to his left-wing bona fides, he continues to work. Figueroa being gay is a huge plus in a world where gay now trumps black on the politically-correct hierarchy.
What say we forget all that nonsense and look at the case on the merits.
Whenever a conservative or liberal says something stupid or offensive, something that might destroy that person’s career, Sean Hannity is always the first to lament a culture where we annihilate people rather than accept their apology. Because I have needed second chances and will again, I couldn’t agree more with that sentiment. But that sentiment doesn’t hold true for everything.
This conservative and this liberal certainly deserved an opportunity to explain and/or apologize. They also deserved our forgiveness and maybe even an apology from those who blew everything out of proportion. This guy, not so much.
With that in mind, let’s unpack this Figueroa scandal…
While on the air doing his catty fashionista bit, Univision host Rodner Figueroa looked at a photo of First Lady Michelle Obama, and someone who was made up to look very much like her, and then said this:
Figueroa: Look at the transformation into Michelle Obama– how impressive! Look at her. Look. You all know Michelle Obama looks like a member of the cast of Planet of the Apes, the movie. It’s true.
[Host Raúl] De Molina: What are you talking about? She’s a very beautiful woman, I think.
Figueroa: It’s not about whether she’s attractive. You remember in the movie– what is the problem, Raul?
De Molina: I think Michelle Obama is a very beautiful woman.
Figueroa: But look, it’s a characterization of her, what I am referring to.
Here is what Figueroa was looking at when he made those comments:
At first Figuerora appeared to switch gears from commenting on the person making himself up to look like Ms. Obama, to commenting directly on our First Lady. He says declaratively, “You all know Michelle Obama looks like a member of the cast of Planet of the Apes, the movie. It’s true.”
He is not saying the make-up artist’s make-up makes him look like an ape. He’s referring directly to Ms. Obama. The next time he speaks, he appears to double down: “It’s not about whether she’s attractive. You remember in the movie– what is the problem, Raul?”
The “she” he is referring to is Michelle Obama. There is only one “she” in that photo. The only other person is Paolo Vallesteros, a male make-up artist.
It’s only after this that Figueroa claims he was referring to Vallesteros, “But look, it’s a characterization of her, what I am referring to.”
Is that still okay?
I don’t think it is.
There really is no context in which comparing the First Lady, or someone who looks uncannily like her and definitely looks like a black woman, to an ape is acceptable. Being a gay, Hispanic Obama voter doesn’t change whatever the toxic impulse was that put that revolting thought in his head.
Here’s the thing that I think is most damning. I do live radio two or three times a week, and frequently am asked to comment on all kinds of touchy subjects, including race. More than once, in the heat of the moment, I have said something that could be misinterpreted. When I find myself in that position, I always use the same line as a way to go back and clarify, “Since I know Media Matters is monitoring this, let me be perfectly clear on this…”
And then I remove any room for misinterpretation.
Figueroa couldn’t do that. He still can’t. Whether he was commenting on the First Lady or someone made up to look an awful lot like her, he compared what he saw to an ape.
There is just no way to turn what he said into something that is not a firing offense.
John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC