Perez, who made her film breakthrough in Spike Lee's seminal Do the Right Thing, seemed ashamed that Figueroa's remark came from a fellow Latino.
“There is a secret in the Latin community, specifically the Caribbean, South American, Central American Latin community. They are very racist,” Perez, a Puerto Rican, said. “They never want to be in the same group as black people. And it’s very, very sad. And he did say Michelle Obama looked like a cast member of The Planet of the Apes.”
Figueroa made his remark on the Miami-based show El Gordo y la Flaca when panelists were discussing a male makeup artist who turns himself into painted likenesses of female celebrities, including the FLOTUS. The fired host's subsequent public mea culpa came in the form of an open letter to Mrs. Obama, in which he claimed he was comparing the makeup artist's depiction of her — not the first lady herself — to an ape.
Perez dismissed Figueroa's excuse by pointing out that he said specifically "Michelle Obama looks like a cast member of Planet of the Apes."
"But was he saying it racist-like?" Raven-Symoné interjected. "He said he voted for her later. I don't think he was saying it racist."
Fellow guest host comedian Michelle Collins pointed out that Figueroa is openly gay, biracial, and a comedian. Perez was not having any of it.
"I am the Latin person here on this table, and I would like to tell you that it was racist, period," an insistent Perez said. "The thing is this is a problem in the Latin community that we do not talk about, that we do not address, and it is real and it was revealed by this man's statement."
"Michelle, don't fire me from this right now, but some people look like animals," Raven-Symoné replied. "Is that rude? I look like a bird. I look like a bird, so can I be mad if somebody calls me Toucan Sam?"
Raven-Symoné made headlines in October when she told Oprah that she was in a romantic relationship with another woman and that she doesn't like to use the labels "gay" and "African-American."
Moderator Whoopi Goldberg, one of the most lauded comedians of the past few decades, ended the conversation by telling Figueroa that if he doesn't have the talent to figure out how to make a particular joke, he shouldn't make it.
On social media, the reaction to the exchange has been equally heated.
Raven Symone is the biggest disappointment ever I literally grew up idolizing her cuz of That's So Raven + Cheetah Girls— Richey Collazo (@RicheyCollazo) March 17, 2015
It's amazing to me how often Raven Symone showcases how much she does not understand about race relations outside of her Hollywood bubble.— Urethra Franklin (@WoeLilly) March 17, 2015
And #shoutout to Rosie Perez for giving her thoughts on anti-Blackness in the Latino community.— Charlene Carruthers (@CharleneCac) March 17, 2015
@TheView u go Rosie Perez. u don't disrespect Michelle Obama ... That was a racist comment .. Raven I love u but you need a clue ...— Vivian Lockett (@vivianimsobless) March 16, 2015