Blog Briefing Room

Universal Orlando fires 'Despicable Me' actor for making hand gesture linked to white power

A former actor at Universal Orlando portraying the character Gru from the movie "Despicable Me" has been fired after making an "OK" hand gesture in a photo with a child. The hand symbol has been associated with white power movements.

Tiffiney and Richard Zinger took their daughter, who was 6 years old at the time of the photo, to Universal Orlando in March. When their daughter, who is biracial, posed with the beloved movie character, the actor can be seen making an upside-down "OK" symbol with his hand in footage obtained by USA Today.

The symbol has been associated with white supremacist and white power movements. Some say the gesture looks like the letters "WP," for white power.

A Universal Orlando Resort spokesman apologized and confirmed that the actor was fired.

"We never want our guests to experience what this family did. This is not acceptable and we are sorry - and we are taking steps to make sure nothing like this happens again. We can't discuss specifics about this incident, but we can confirm that the actor no longer works here. We remain in contact with the family and will work with them privately to make this right," the spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill. 

The Zingers said they did not initially notice what happened after the photo was taken. But when they were sorting through vacation photos in August, they noticed the symbol in the photo with their child, according to USA Today. 

They then reviewed the videos they took from the vacation, which show their daughter standing by the character as he places his hand on her shoulder, later making a visible "OK" symbol.

The couple's 2-year-old son is also in the photo, they told USA Today.

"It's more than the 'OK' sign," Richard Zinger told USA Today. "A lot of people don't understand what that sign means."

Tiffiney Zinger said she worried how the photo would affect her daughter.  

"I've been emotionally distraught about it. I'm still pretty upset that someone felt they needed to do this to children," she told USA Today. "It can cause emotional stress on my child and her development."

The Zingers said they reached out to Universal after finding the photo in mid-August, and Universal said the incident was being investigated, USA Today reported. The family reportedly did not hear anything from Universal for a month, and they were later offered free tickets and a gift card.

"I want to cause change," Tiffiney Zinger told the outlet. "I hope this doesn't happen to another family again, and I pray that this doesn't happen to another kid."

The Anti-Defamation league, a Jewish civil rights group, just last month added the symbol to its "Hate on Display" online database of hate symbols, which also includes Ku Klux Klan robes, swastikas, burning crosses and other symbols of racism and anti-Semitism.

The shooter in the attack on two Christchurch mosques in New Zealand, which left 51 people dead earlier this year, flashed the symbol during his court appearance.

--Updated at 2:05 p.m.

Outbrain