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

What Graham said in May about dwarfism case

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.

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  1. Bob Nelson

    Graham has done stand up comedy in the past and one thing about comedy is exaggeration can be used to prove a point. 20 minute wait for a little person to use a stepstool? Graham
    may be off by, oh, maybe 19 and a half minutes. Perhaps even nineteen and three-quarters minutes.

    Graham has a raspy voice which can be annoying to some people. Should that have prevented him from getting and holding down a job with Greater Media? Just sayin’.

  2. Emily Baillieul

    Bob and Graham are both assuming they know the nature of the complaint against Starbucks given that the suit was brought by a woman who is a little person. I haven’t read about it, so I don’t know myself. I disagree with his conclusion in any case.

    Since Graham’s clearly on the entertainment side of things, his employment with Greater Media probably rests on whether or not enough people want to listen to him rant. We’ll see.

  3. Al Quint

    The important thing about comedy is it actually helps to be funny. This sounds like something you’d hear at an open mike night on a Monday in front of about 20 people–and I doubt many of them would stick around until the end…

  4. Wow, this is mind-blowing in its obtuseness and offensiveness. Like he’s never waited 20 minutes in line anywhere with an average-height worker behind the counter? Say someone who dawdled, talked to a friend, couldn’t get the order right, couldn’t work the cash register, was rude, etc.? I mean if this woman takes a little extra time but manages to do the job pleasantly and competently, then what’s the problem? If he’s that jittery that he needs his coffee NOW then it sounds like he should lay off the caffeine for awhile! If he’s in a line of 15 people he’s not going to get his coffee immediately no matter who’s behind the counter. (Of course obviously he was just being intentionally provocative, which I guess is the whole reason these talk radio shows exist. I never listen to them.)

  5. Mike Rice

    In this case you’re just pathetic Mr. Graham. That’s all. I’m not sorry. It’s not my fault.

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