Earlier this week the Boston Globe asked me to write an op-ed piece on Michael Graham’s demeaning shtick about dwarfism. It’s up this morning, and you will find it here. Barring any unexpected developments, I intend it to be my final word on the subject.
Well, now. A little after 3 p.m., Michael Graham addressed the matter of the dwarfism segment on last Friday’s show on WTKK Radio (96.9 FM) and apologized — not for anything he said, but for Karl Zahn’s so-called joke. The full transcript of Graham’s remarks:
If you listen to the show, you know that when I screw up, if I get a fact here wrong or whatever, I like to correct myself personally, and I like to do it right up front in the show. During Friday’s we had a conversation about Starbucks and a decision to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit. We were discussing the legitimate topic of a dwarf who had a job at Starbucks for which I feel she was clearly unqualified.
Well, during a roundtable some comments went too far. They weren’t funny. They were hurtful. Doesn’t matter who said them. It doesn’t matter that it was a wide-open conversation. This is my show, and I’m responsible. So I’d like to apologize for those comments. I’m sorry it happened. I wish that I could say nothing stupid will ever be said on this show again, but that is obviously impossible. People make mistakes. What I can promise is that I will take responsibility for mine.
I’m beginning to feel sorry for Karl.
Meanwhile, Heidi Raphael, a spokeswoman for Greater Media, which owns WTKK, told me in an emailed statement that the station will not be posting the audio. She added:
Please know we have spoken with Michael about his remarks, and made it clear this is not the type of commentary we expect on our airwaves. Michael’s comments do not, in any way, represent the views, opinions or company culture of Greater Media.
Please note the phrase his remarks in Raphael’s statement, which clearly refers to Graham, not Zahn.
Pending any new developments, I’ll be wrapping this up tomorrow. If you’ve been hanging in there to this point, please stay tuned.
I just got word that Michael Graham is expected to address the offensive remarks he and his guests made about people with dwarfism shortly after 3 p.m. today on his WTKK Radio (96.9 FM) program. I’ll be listening.
I hear that Karl Zahn, a.k.a. Karl from New Hampshire, the comedian who told an offensive joke about dwarfs on Michael Graham’s show on WTKK Radio (96.9 FM) last Friday, apologized on air earlier this morning. Karl popped up on Jim Braude and Margery Eagan’s program on WTKK and reportedly said he was sorry.
Well, good for Karl. That doesn’t absolve Graham for his own offensive commentary about people with dwarfism, an example of which I posted earlier this week. And I still want to see WTKK post the audio of the entire segment from last Friday’s program. Despite calls to do so from this blog and from Boston City Councilor Felix Arroyo, the station has maintained radio silence.
Thanks to Media Nation commenter John Hall, I realized I could listen to Michael Graham’s earlier segment on Elsa Sallard, the woman with dwarfism who won a $75,000 anti-discrimination settlement from Starbucks last week. I couldn’t get the audio from the cached version of the page using Chrome, but when I switched to Safari, it came right up. So here’s Graham in a segment posted to iTunes on May 18 of this year:
Here’s the story. There’s a dwarf who wanted to work at the Starbucks in El Paso, Texas. But the dwarf got fired as a barista because, she claims, she’s a dwarf. Starbucks is denying it — quote, We definitely want to make it clear that we take all of these concerns seriously, we have zero tolerance for workplace discrimination — no, no, no! I want workplace discrimination. For example, I want the person who’s getting my coffee to be able to reach the actual coffee.
I am not anti-dwarf. I don’t have any strong feelings about dwarfs. I know there’s some people who are creeped out by dwarfs. Not me. No. Tall, short, big, fat, you’re just a person. If you can do your job, I am happy to pay you to do it. If you give me great service, I’m happy to get the great service. I don’t care if you have tats or not. As a customer, I don’t care if you’re a hulking giant or a dwarf. I just want my damn coffee. That’s all I want, is my damn coffee. And the idea that I’m going to have to stand in line for an extra 20 minutes while you skootch around taking care of the customers on your little ladder or stepstool or bucket or whatever — no, I’m sorry.
How many of you are with me, at 617-822-1969? Screw the PC. If I walk into Starbucks and there’s a line of 15 people deep and a dwarf, I’m out of there. I’m just gone. I’m not — [low voice] You know, we should all be — no! I’m sorry. I’ve got stuff to do. I’m going to go to the coffee shop that sells me coffee when I walk in the door, brought to me by people who can reach the damn coffee. This is not anti-dwarf. It is not bigotry. It is just — common-sensitry. I just want my stuff. That’s it. It’s that simple. So this woman’s suing, in the file of “people can sue for anything.” How can you possibly say that you can force me to hire you to do a job you can’t do because you can’t reach the buttons. OK?
At that point, Graham went off-topic slightly, praising the service at both Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, before returning to the matter of Elsa Sallard:
I’ve got to sit there and watch you step over your co-worker. [high, squeaky voice] Help me! Can you please help me? I can’t reach the mugs. You’re a dwarf! I’m not being mean. You’re just a dwarf. That’s all. I’m sorry. It’s not my fault. It doesn’t make you a bad person. I just don’t want to watch you climbing Spider-Man-like up to the fourth shelf to grab the cinnamon stuff for the cinammon coffee.
So that’s me, that’s my message to Dunkin’ Donuts, to Starbucks, to Shaw’s, to every other business out there. If you want me, Michael Graham, to be a customer, you have to hire people who can do the job that you have hired them to do. And if I show up and if I have to wait for the dwarf to pull out the stepladder and climb up? Bye. I’m gone.
After about four minutes, Graham switched to talking about Arnold Schwarzenegger, and I stopped listening. Perhaps he returned to the topic, but that certainly seems like enough, no?
You should be able to listen for yourself here.
A few brief updates on the still-unheard Michael Graham dwarfism segment:
- Apparently there was a fourth person on the air — a comedian who goes by Karl from New Hampshire, according to Media Nation commenter John Stewart. Although Stewart did not hear the segment, a commenter at Universal Hub says he (or she) did, and claims that it was Karl who made a “nasty joke” about the woman with dwarfism.
- This is not the first time Graham has talked about the woman. Last May, when her complaint about being fired from Starbucks because of her height first became public, Graham did a segment that later got posted as a podcast on iTunes called “Not Grande Enough for Starbucks.” The description: “Starbucks fires a dwarf.” Kudos to Twitter follower @BEEBALM2010 for digging up the cached version of the page. Unfortunately, only the 30 most recent podcasts are available on iTunes.
- Still no audio of the segment at WTKK’s website.
Four months after being fired by WTKK Radio (96.9 FM), Jay Severin is returning to the air — this time with WXKS (AM 1200), a Clear Channel-owned station that has tried to build a talk-radio alternative around nationally syndicated right-wingers like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity. The Boston Herald reports today that Severin will helm afternoon drive (3 to 6 p.m.) starting this Thursday.
Severin, who has a long history of making incendiary racial and sexual remarks, was canned after a preening, offensive monologue about his alleged swordsmanship with interns. More to the point, I suspect, was that his ratings had plummeted, making it hard to justify his reported $1 million salary. No word in the Herald as to what Clear Channel is going to pay him.
Rob Eno wonders if Severin might actually beat his replacement at ‘TKK, Doug Meehan, since Severin will be following Limbaugh — “gold in the talk radio game.” (Meehan’s lead-in is Michael Graham, so I can certainly understand Eno’s reasoning.) Problem is, Boston has always been one of Limbaugh’s weakest markets. Indeed, when Clear Channel converted ‘XKS to a right-wing talk station a couple of years ago, it called itself “Rush Radio.” Now it’s just “Talk 1200,” which suggests that executives don’t see Limbaugh as much of a local asset.
A far bigger issue is WXKS’s weak signal. Though promos tout its 50,000 watts of power, that doesn’t translate into listenability. Driving in from the North Shore earlier today, it wasn’t until I hit Revere that the static finally dropped to a tolerable level. Even liberal talk station WWZN (AM 1510), with its notoriously weak signal, came in more clearly.
As for Severin’s return, it will be interesting to see if anyone cares. Somewhere, Scot Lehigh is quietly celebrating. But I’ve missed it if anyone has been pining for Severin’s return to the Boston airwaves.
Severin was suspended last week, apparently for making some pretty loathsome remarks about sex with interns. Standard fare for the hatemongering Severin, but his $1 million salary and his plummeting ratings made getting rid of him an easy call.
Meanwhile, Globe columnist Scot Lehigh proves that Severin lied about him recently regarding Lehigh’s reporting that Severin had lied about having received a Pulitzer. Fun piece (“lying about lying,” Lehigh calls it), though the only folks who thought Severin was telling the truth about Lehigh were the most hopeless of his sycophants. Which means they won’t be convinced now, either.
Severin has already been scrubbed from the WTKK website. Jay who? We don’t know anyone named Jay.
Was Media Nation the first to predict that Severin wouldn’t be back? You tell me.
And just think: Severin’s departure comes on the same day that we learn fading Fox phenom Glenn Beck will be leaving his daily show later this year. Beck is supposedly going to work on unspecified projects for Fox.
I’m writing from New Haven, where I’m on a reporting trip, and I know nothing other than what was in the Boston Globe today. But it seems that WTKK Radio (96.9 FM) talk-show host Jay Severin has been suspended again.
Severin was suspended two years ago for making racist comments about Mexicans — something he had been doing for years about many ethnic groups and women. The difference was that his ratings had started to fall.
Prediction: This time, he won’t be back. And few will care.
I don’t see how this move makes sense, but WRKO Radio (AM 680) has ousted longtime Republican political consultant Charley Manning from its 1-to-3 p.m. slot and replaced him with Boston Herald columnist Michele McPhee — who, in turn, had been dropped recently by ‘RKO’s rival, WTKK (96.9 FM).
Like many folks in the media and political community here, I consider Manning to be a friend, so it’s hard for me to be entirely unbiased. I was also a guest on his show recently. But it strikes me that Manning got little in the way of marketing or production assistance. Given that, it’s no surprise that his ratings lagged.