Rodner Figueroa was fired from Univision earlier this month after he compared Michelle Obama to a cast member from the Planet of the Apes, but he's not going down without a fight. An attorney for Figueroa, Marty Singer, demands that the host be reinstated after he was “falsely painted as a racist.”
In a scathing letter to Univision executives, leaked to TMZ, Singer accuses the network of lying about the first lady complaining about Figueroa’s comments.The letter also demands that Univision issue a public apology to Figueroa. To make matters even more litigious, Singer claims in the letter that Univision used the controversy as an excuse to oust Figueroa for being a union organizer.
“I am writing regarding the outrageous tortious conduct of Univision Networks (‘Univision’), in which Univision defamed my client and falsely painted him as a racist, and publicly lied that the termination of his employment was at the request of the Office of the First Lady, Michelle Obama,” the letter, addressed to Univision Communications president and CEO Randy Falco, Univision Networks vice president Fabrizio Alcobe and others, reads. “Univision’s ignominious actions have caused irreparable injury to his reputation and career, for which the network will be held fully accountable.”
“First my client did not make racist comments about Mrs. Obama whatsoever, which is abundantly clear from the transcript of the broadcast,” Singer writes in his letter. “Second, I understand that there was no request made by the Office of the First Lady to terminate my client’s employment, and that this representation, made by a Univision executive and leaked to the press, is a complete lie.”
Figueroa penned an open letter apologizing to the first lady after making the comments, but fell short of taking full responsibility.
“I offer my sincere apology for an unfortunate comment I made about a makeup artist’s depiction of you on Univision’s show El Gordo y La Flaca yesterday. It was clearly in bad taste and misunderstood,” Figueroa’s statement read. “I would like to explain that my remark was not directed at you, but at the result of an artist’s depiction of you that I found wasn’t accurate. The entire video clip in context corroborates this.”
Singer ends his letter with a reference to Rosa Parks: "Make no mistake, despite Univision's best efforts, Latino talent will not be forced to 'sit in the back of the bus' any longer."
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(Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images)