By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Will WTKK post audio of Graham dwarfism segment?

Felix Arroyo

My Saturday began with an email from a friend, who informed me that radio talk-show host Michael Graham of WTKK (96.9 FM) had had a good old time the day before making fun of a woman with dwarfism who’d won a $75,000 anti-discrimination settlement from Starbucks. (More about that here.) Graham’s guests were Rob Eno, publisher of the conservative website Red Mass Group, and Boston City Councilor Felix Arroyo.

My informant added that someone — it’s not clear who — made an alleged joke about serving food off the head of a dwarf waitress.

I hit Twitter and Facebook hard and got some results. Arroyo, about whom I’ve heard good things, said on his public Facebook page that he was the only one of the three to defend the woman, and he accepted my challenge to call on WTKK to post the audio of the segment. Nothing from ’TKK yet. The station posts one segment a day from Graham’s show, and the one from Friday is of something else. I’m guessing this isn’t happening, but we’ll see.

Adam Gaffin of Universal Hub picked up the story. Nothing from other media. I’d certainly like to see the Boston Globe cover it, and maybe there will be something tomorrow. Seems to me that both the original story and Arroyo’s statement are newsworthy. It would be nice if the Boston Herald covered it, too, but given that Graham is a Herald columnist, maybe not.

As you may know, Graham has a history of these things. Here is an exchange we had in 2007 over a dwarfism-related topic. I find it interesting that WTKK just promoted Graham to afternoon drive time in order to compete with Jay Severin, whom the station fired last spring for serial incivility, and who has now surfaced at WXKS (AM 1200). I guess the folks at ‘TKK think incivility is OK when it’s delivered in Graham’s high-pitched giggle rather than in Severin’s hateful sneer.

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Updates on Michael Graham dwarfism segment


  1. Martin Callaghan


    While following the Twitter and Facebook exchange, a few things stuck out to me. First, in separate tweets Rob Eno denies making the offensive comment:

    Robeno: @dankennedy_nu I only argued policy on show during that segment why not listen for urself

    And seems to throw Arroyo under the bus implying it was Arroyo:

    Robeno @dankennedy_nu that wasn’t me dan ask @felixarroyo that was other guest. Arroyo was there

    In response to you on Facebook, Arroyo goes into a lengthy post about his reasons for appearing on the show and that he was the only guest to defend the worker(with which I agree)and while he calls on WTKK to release the audio (he also states he expressed this himself to “the show”)he never denied making jokes/comments as it appears Ron Eno has.

    I do no not know Rob Eno, but Councillor Arroyo is a great City Councillor and a very strong supporter of working people. I would be shocked and disappointed if he did make inappropriate jokes or comments. If he did, or thinks he may have, he should get out in front of this.

    In fairness to all, including Councillor Arroyo and Rob Eno, WTKK should release the audio of the entire segment.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Martin: Very interesting observations that have also occurred to me. But I’m not going to speculate as to who may have said what. WTKK, post the audio!

  2. C.E. Stead

    Of course, Eno does himself no favors demonstrating his ignorance of a twenty year old Federal law signed into law by a Republican president.

  3. Donna L. Halper

    I am still mystified by why talk show hosts (most of whom lean right wing) like to flaunt their ability to be “politically incorrect.” Whether it’s Jay Severin insulting Mexicans or Dennis & Callahan’s infamous comments comparing ethnic minorities with gorillas, this sort of discourse seems to permeate talk shows, and rarely is anything done about it. I get the impression that the audience (older white males, based on research I’ve seen) expects and wants this sort of thing, and sadly, certain talk shows eagerly serve it up. But a bigger question is why there’s so little outrage about comments like those heard on Michael Graham’s program– so far, the only people who seem upset are those who have kids with disabilities; and based on what I’ve seen at other times when bigoted remarks are made by these talkers, occasionally sponsors will complain because they don’t want their product to be associated with overtly bigoted programs.

    Is the only way to get ratings these days to insult people who are perceived as different? Psychologists could have a field day analyzing the motives of the audience for Michael Graham and other similar bigots– I don’t know him personally, so maybe he is just doing this for ratings or because he can or because he genuinely doesn’t care who gets hurt by his tasteless comments, and/or those of his guests. I hope the audio gets posted, but I suspect not much will be changed as a result. As with bigoted comments made by the current group of GOP presidential candidates, rather than inspiring outrage, their followers just seem to love them even more. A sad and troubling phenomenon.

  4. L.K. Collins

    Is is any different from journalists (mostly of whom lean left) finding political incorrectness in everything, even the most innocent of conversations?

    I did no hear the piece, but I suggest that Dan has something of an axe to grind here.

  5. Rick Peterson

    Graham was off base. A reasonable accomodation should have been made and was not. Having said that, I followed your link to TTK and their link to the Toronto Sun story on the litigation. The photo with the story showed a man’s hand holding a Starbuck’s shot-glass-sized cup. Nice. It would appear that Graham is not alone in his ill-advised attempt with humor at the expense of a disabled person. Ironically, I honestly don’t think he was necessarily trying to be mean. I think he is, like most people, ignorant of what life is like for a disabled person. I guess empathy is in short supply these days.

  6. Mike Rice


  7. Laurence Glavin

    I wrote on another board that it’s unfortunate that “Greater Boston” Mon-thru-Thu or “Beat the Press” on Fridays won’t return until after Labour Day (I just listened to a British piece on WCRB yesterday, Elgar’s “Enigma Variations” thus the spelling PLUS Dan writes for a British newspaper and his texts are translated into Britishese) so this contretemps (to switch to French lingo)may fade away in the the next few weeks. HINT HINT: Scott Lehigh lives for this stuff; I think he could be easily talked into writing a column about it.

  8. Mike Rice

    Making fun of any recognized condition covered under the ADA makes me sick. How the hell anyone relates this incident to “political incorrectness” is beyond me.

  9. Al Quint

    Graham taps into a certain demographic–cowardly individuals who have to compensate for their own insecurities by bullying others. That goes for a fair number of the hosts as well (see: Carr, Howie).

  10. Mike Rice

    Whoever made the comment is intellectually deficient – bigtime!

  11. Michael Pahre

    That would be Councilor Felix Arroyo, Jr.

    From the part of the links I followed through on, I am a bit surprised with Arroyo’s lack of outrage about the comments of the show’s host and the other guests, given his generally progressive positions.

    If you were to substitute “dwarfism” with race — e.g., if Starbuck’s were to fire the employee solely based on the fact that she had black skin — I would expect Arroyo to be screaming bloody murder and telling everybody how he will never go on any show again with such bigots. Instead, he defends returning to Graham’s show, because he doesn’t want to cede talk radio solely to conservatives.

    Am I making a false parallel here? Or does Arroyo seem implicitly to buy into the premise that there is a distinction between discrimination based on race and that based on physical size? Methinks Arroyo’s progressive base would not appreciate it if he claimed such a distinction.

  12. john stewart

    comedian and station caller Karl Zahn was also a guest on Thats a Wrap FRiday, I did not hear the conversation about Starbucks

  13. Jack Sullivan

    @L.K., you’re right, Dan does have an axe to grind here. It’s called parenthood. It’s the same axe Lauren Beckham Falcone and her mother Beverly Beckham grind when ill-informed and mean-spirited buffoons with a platform make jokes about Downs syndrome. It is an axe that any parent or grandparent, myself included, sharpens when one of our children or grandchildren is subjected to grade school taunts and ignorance from supposedly adult commentators.

  14. Dan Kennedy

    @john stewart: Over at Universal Hub, a commenter says the waitress “joke” was indeed uttered by Karl. Post the audio, WTKK!

  15. L.K. Collins

    The point being made is that Dan is all for freedom of speech until it comes to a matter close to home, then he is a champion of the politically correct.

    I do not subscribe to the gratuitous belittling of others by using prejudicial terms. For Dan, however, it seems as though he quickly readjusts the line of propriety to fit his current political whim.

  16. Al Quint

    … and “politically correct” is a term that has been adopted by the right to justify their bullying behavior. So be it. As I said earlier, bullies are just insecure cowards.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Al: And let’s not forget that if you call on WTKK to post the audio, then you’re against free speech.

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