Actress Raven-Symoné generated a fresh round of controversy on Monday when she defended former Univision anchor Rodner Figueroa for a racially charged joke he made at first lady Michelle Obama’s expense.
Figueroa quipped that Michelle Obama looked like she was in the cast of “Planet of the Apes” during a make-up segment on “El Gordo Y la Flaca.”
While appearing as a guest host on the syndicated talk show “The View,” Symoné – who is African-American – said the controversy over Figueroa’s remarks were much ado about nothing.
“I don’t think he was saying it racist,” Symoné told her fellow panelists. “Not Michelle Obama. Michelle, don’t fire me from this right now, but some people do look like animals,” she added.
“Is that rude? I look like a bird… so can I be mad at somebody that calls me Toucan Sam?” Symoné joked.
This is not the first time the former Disney and “Cosby Show” star has made remarks on race that might rub some viewers the wrong way. During a sit-down with Oprah Winfrey last year, the actress generated considerable controversy when she said she rejected cultural labels like “gay” or “African-American.”
“I never said I wasn’t black.”Later Symoné issued a response to the backlash in which she said,
Meanwhile. Figueroa has issued an official apology to the first lady. “I want to clarify that I’m not racist and in no way was my comment directed at you, but rather the work of the [make up] artist, which left much to be desired,” Figueroa wrote last week.
Still, despite his seemingly heartfelt mea culpa, Figueroa reserved some fire for his former network, Univision.
“I feel embarrassed, I ask for forgiveness, because there is no excuse for a professional like me to make those types of comments that can be interpreted as offensive and racist in a volatile moment that we live in our country. I take full responsibility for the lack of judgement in my part, but I can’t accept that I am being called a racist, being fired for that reason and being humiliated by Univision after working there for 17 years,” he added.
On Monday, Symoné’s co-hosts we’ren’t buying her claim that Figueroa’s joke wasn’t malicious because he “did say he voted for [Obama] later.” Actress Rosie Perez said, “That’s like saying, ‘I’m not a racist, but I have black friends.”