Meeting the costumed characters of the animated movie franchise “Despicable Me” could have been a highlight of a family’s visit to Universal Orlando Resort.
Instead, when Richard and Tiffiney Zinger later took a closer look at a video from a March 23 visit to the resort, the husband and wife said they made a shocking discovery: One of the costumed characters posing with their biracial children made a white power sign.
Mr. Zinger, 40, is white and Ms. Zinger, 35, is black.
The couple — both United States Army veterans who served in the war in Iraq — said the episode happened during a breakfast with the movie’s Minions characters at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando.
An actor dressed as the character Felonious Gru put his hand on the shoulder of their daughter, who was 6 at the time, and made an upside-down “O.K.” sign with his fingers.
The hand gesture was added last month to a database of hate symbols by the Anti-Defamation League, which noted that the gunman charged with killing 51 people and injuring dozens more at two New Zealand mosques in March, made the white supremacist gesture during a court hearing.
“To have this done to your children, it’s really heartbreaking and devastating,” Ms. Zinger said on Saturday. “They’re responsible for my child’s first racist encounter that should have never been at a family event.”
In a statement, Universal Orlando Resort apologized.
“We never want our guests to experience what this family did,” Tom Schroder, a spokesman for the resort, said in an email on Saturday. “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 the actor no longer works here. We have remained in contact with the family as we’ve worked with them to try and make this right.”
The resort did not name the employee.
Loews Hotels did not immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday.
Ms. Zinger said she had not looked at the video, which was taken with a smartphone, until she was helping her son with a class project in August. Now 3 years old, he was 2 at the time of the episode. Her daughter has since turned 7.
“My daughter, she’s autistic, so I tried to explain to the best of my ability that people are not going to like you because of the color of your skin and other things,” Ms. Zinger said. “It’s hard to tell a child at age 7 that there’s already adults that are targeting her.”
The exchange recalled a similar episode involving Doug Glanville, a former Major League Baseball player, who was doing in-game television commentary at Wrigley Field in Chicago in May when a fan flashed the upside-down “O.K.” sign behind him.
A few days later, the Chicago Cubs announced that they had identified the fan and banned the person indefinitely from the ballpark.
“I knew about that one,” Ms. Zinger said. “It’s been happening a great deal. No one’s been putting them together.”
In September 2018, the Coast Guard apologized after a member of its storm response team flashed the same sign in the background of a briefing on Hurricane Florence, and said the person had been removed from his role.
And during last year’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing of Brett M. Kavanaugh, the Republican lawyer Zina Bash was criticized when she made a similar hand gesture.
Ms. Zinger said when she first emailed Universal Orlando Resort about the episode, a guest services representative offered her a refund in what she considered to be a pro forma response.
“It just didn’t seem genuine,” she said.
It wasn’t until her husband contacted Universal and Loews executives that a lawyer for the resort responded. She said the organizations had balked at requests for information about its screening of employees and the name of the actor involved.
“I don’t know if they’re constantly doing background checks or doing social media checks on their actors,” she said.