Rodner Figueroa Claims Univision Smeared Him in Firing Over Michelle Obama Remark

Rodner Figueroa, the Univision host and fashion reporter who was fired earlier this month for allegedly making a racist remark about Michelle Obama, claims that he was illegally terminated and suggests the real reason was his support for unionization of Latino talent.

Figueroa contends that he was “falsely painted” as a racist.

In a letter sent to Univision by his attorney, Martin Singer, Figueroa contends that the network leaked representations to the press that he was fired for saying the first lady “looks like part of the cast of ‘Planet of the Apes’ the movie.” In fact, Figueroa says, through his attorney, his remarks were directed toward makeup artist Paolo Ballesteros. The segment on the March 11 broadcast of “El Gordo I La Flaca” featured an image of Ballesteros posing as the first lady.

In his letter, Singer wrote that Univision “did not have a problem with my client’s remarks during the delay when it could have exercised its discretion to do so,” and that the Standards and Practices department also didn’t step in.

He claims that Figueroa’s firing was retribution for his efforts to promote SAG-AFTRA at Univision.

He also contends that Univision leaked that the Office of the First Lady was upset over the remark and requested that he be fired, even though that was a “complete lie.” In fact, Singer wrote, Figueroa wrote to Obama and explained that his 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 corroborates this.”

“Make no mistake, despite Univision’s best efforts, Latino talent will not be forced to ‘sit on the back of the bus’ any longer,” Singer writes. He said Figueroa’s firing exposes Univision to claims of defamation, breach of contract, wrongful termination and unfair labor practices.

Singer is calling for Univision to issue an apology and to reinstate Figueroa.

A spokeswoman for Univision said they had no comment.

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