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.
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.
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.
Boston Herald reporter Jay Fitzgerald has some very good news: WTKK (96.9 FM) is moving Jim Braude and Margery Eagan’s mid-day talk show to morning drive, where it will now be heard Monday to Friday from 7 to 10 a.m. Aging has-been Don Imus’ syndicated program will be relegated to the decidedly unattractive 5-to-7 a.m. slot.
In making the move, WTKK rectifies a mistake that goes back to its failed attempt to lure Howie Carr from WRKO (AM 680) for morning drive. Carr wanted to come over, but he turned out to have the most restrictive contract since Curt Flood; indeed, he was whining about it as recently as yesterday.
Stuck with no Howie, ‘TKK took back Imus, who was returning to the airwaves following his penance for referring to African-American female basketball players as “nappy-headed hos.”
Naturally, a lot of attention will be focused on the duel between Eagan and Braude’s program and ‘RKO’s morning-drive show hosted by Tom Finneran and Todd Feinburg. That shouldn’t be much of a contest. Braude and Eagan are naturals. Finneran has never gotten comfortable behind the microphone, and Feinburg is all plodding, ultraconservative earnestness.
The far more interesting question is whether this is the first of several shoes to drop at ‘TKK. It’s hard to read the tea leaves, but the station has made a statement: Its signature program is now a morning talk show hosted by a liberal, Braude, and a moderate, Eagan, both of whom bring a light touch to the proceedings and are respectful toward and engaging with callers.
For the moment, they appear to be OK. Graham’s actually getting an extra hour. As for Severin, maybe I’m parsing this too finely, but I do find it interesting that he’s losing a drive-time hour (6 to 7 p.m.) and gaining a non-drive hour (2 to 3 p.m.). Michele McPhee is moving up a bit, from 6 to 10 p.m., which could be seen as an attempt to expose her to more listeners.
More than anything, Eagan and Braude’s move up is step toward civility on the airwaves — rare at any time, and something we ought to celebrate.
Jon Keller calls out “knee-jerk critics” of President Obama following the rescue of Capt. Richard Phillips. Right on cue, Michael Graham rips Obama for not unleashing the Navy to have at the pirates until Phillips was in “imminent danger.”
Does Graham not understand that the Navy sharpshooters easily could have blown Phillips’ head off by mistake? What they did was incredibly risky — which is why they couldn’t do it until they were convinced the pirates were about to kill their hostage.
After I posted my item on the FBI and the Weather Underground yesterday, I received some good advice from several people, both in the comments and in private e-mails: that I should ignore attacks from the likes of Michael Graham and Cliff Kincaid.
I’m not going to take that advice, because I still have a few facts I want to lay out. I will try to keep this as brief as I can (i.e., not very), and reasonably dispassionate. I hope and expect this is the last time I will write about the Weather Underground.
Yesterday I reported that the FBI had revised a Web page that identified convicted murderer Katherine Ann Power as a member of the Weather Underground; the agency explained that its original reference to her had been made “inaccurately.” Power and four accomplices murdered Boston police officer Walter Schroeder (photo) in a 1970 bank robbery. Though Power and one of those accomplices, Susan Saxe, were campus radicals at Brandeis University, neither had ever been credibly linked to the Weather Underground.
After Graham, a talk-show host on WTKK Radio (96.9 FM), posted his item showing that an FBI site claimed Power was a Weather Underground member, I started digging. In two posts (here and here), I found that the underlying FBI document linked from that Web page made no mention of Power, Saxe or the Schroeder killing; that books on the Weather Underground contained not a hint of any link to the Schroeder case; and that, at both the time of the murder and Power’s 1993 arrest, there was never any mention of a possible connection to the Weather Underground.
At that point I contacted the FBI press office to seek an explanation for why it had identified Power as a member of the Weather Underground. For a week, I exchanged e-mails with FBI press officer Paul Bresson. I first called and wrote to him on March 30. Later that day, he wrote:
I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if this was simply a caption error. When she was announced on our Top 10, we made no reference to her association with the WU then. Seems like we would have.
He also told me that the FBI’s “resident historian” would look into the matter further. Then, yesterday morning, I noticed that Power’s photo had disappeared from the FBI page, and a notice had been added saying that her inclusion had been made “inaccurately.” I asked Bresson whether the FBI would issue a statement. He responded:
No. It was a caption error. Not unlike what happens in the media from time to time.
Again, thanks for pointing it out.
I also sent an e-mail to Power last week, but did not receive a response.
If you go to Graham’s blog, you will find that he is still running the Power photo as proof of her membership in the Weather Underground. He has also neither revised, corrected nor apologized for an item in which he refers to me as “some moron who claims to teach at Northeastern University” because of my insistence that Power was not connected to the Weather Underground.
Personal insults aside, it’s fair to ask whether Graham should be held accountable when, in fact, an FBI Web page did identify Power as a member of the Weather Underground. I think the answer is yes, for three reasons:
- There was nothing on that FBI Web page about Power or the Schroeder murder — just one photo identifying her as a member of the Weather Underground. That should have led Graham to investigate further.
- The Web page linked to an underlying FBI document representing the agency’s own, extensive 1976 history of the Weather Underground. Again: Not a mention of Power, Saxe or the Schroeder murder.
- Though Graham’s fellow WTKK host Michele McPhee has been claiming for some time that the Schroeder murder was somehow linked to the Weather Underground, there is no credible evidence. Hints here, rumors there? Sure. But that’s not the same as on-the-record facts.
How did I get dragged into this? Last fall I was struck by a post-election interview that NPR’s Terry Gross conducted with former Weather Underground leader William Ayers. Ayers came across as smarmy and self-satisfied. But he is also a respected education reformer, and his and his family’s lives had been put in danger because of the pounding he’d been subjected to over his ties to Barack Obama. And despite some reprehensible activities in his youth, including bombings, neither he nor the Weather Underground had ever been credibly tied to any killings. So I wrote it up for The Guardian.
Now let me try to deal as briefly as I can with Cliff Kincaid, of the media-watch organization Accuracy in Media. Laughably, his piece, which was posted yesterday morning, still contains two links to the now-revised FBI page. No correction, and no comments allowed.
It’s hard even to find a point of entry in Kincaid’s column. I’m reminded of a lawyer who once told jurors that if they found something rotten floating at the top of the barrel, they were under no obligation to stick their hands in to see if there was something better underneath. Kincaid’s double reliance on a now-corrected FBI error is enough.
But let me look at one additional piece of evidence that he recommends: a 1975 report (PDF) by the Senate Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act and Other Internal Security Laws. The document is not searchable, but Kincaid provides a helpful guide, instructing readers to go to pages 33 and 36.
On page 33 the report briefly mentions the Schroeder murder and says this: “Police charged both Susan Edith Saxe and Katherine Ann Power of the Weatherman group with complicity in the murder and robbery.” That’s it. There is no indication of where this information came from.
The reference on page 36 says this:
Three female members of the Weather Underground were on the FBI “List of Most Wanted Fugitives” for a full three years without being apprehended. They were Bernardine Rea Dohrn [Ayers’ wife], Susan Edith Saxe, and Katherine Ann Power.
But that’s wrong. Recall what FBI spokesman Bresson told me: “When she [Power] was announced on our Top 10, we made no reference to her association with the WU then. Seems like we would have.”
Finally, in my original Guardian column I briefly mentioned that Time magazine had knocked down an assertion that the Weather Underground had been linked to the 1970 murder of a police officer in San Francisco. Beyond that, I know nothing about that case, but Kincaid mentions it.
As it turns out, just a few weeks ago, on March 12, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the city’s police union publicly accused Ayers and Dohrn of having been involved in the bombing. According to the story:
The union’s accusation surprised some authorities. According to a source familiar with the probe, who spoke on condition of anonymity, investigators have found no evidence that links the Weather Underground to the bombing.
A week later, the Chronicle reported that police chief Heather Fong had ordered the union to stop talking about the case, which is being actively investigated and which could soon result in an arrest or arrests. So maybe we’re on the verge of a definitive answer.
Two final points.
Let’s not forget how all this foolishness started. People who wanted to bring President Obama down during the campaign sought desperately to transform Ayers from a washed-up radical into a washed-up, murdering radical. The goal was to tie Obama to a cop-killer, despite the lack of any credible evidence.
And let’s not forget Walter Schroeder, who left nine children. His brother John, also a Boston police officer, was murdered three years later. For all the anger and angst Ayers, Power, Saxe and their like have inspired over the years, it was the Schroeder family that suffered the most, and, I’m sure, is suffering still.
Update: Kincaid has written a hilarious response. He’s actually going to FOIA records about my contacts with the FBI.
I’m planning to write a much longer post tomorrow. But since Cliff Kincaid of Accuracy in Media is attacking me today, I thought I would provide a sneak preview.
Both Kincaid and WTKK talk-show host Michael Graham have pointed to an FBI Web page identifying convicted murderer Katherine Ann Power as a member of the Weather Underground as proof that I’m wrong — OK, worse than wrong — in arguing otherwise (as I do here and here). Power and four accomplices killed Boston police officer Walter Schroeder in a 1970 bank robbery.
Well, here’s that FBI page again. Oh, look! The photo of Power has been removed. Let’s scroll down to the bottom of the screen, shall we? Here’s what it says:
Photo of Katherine Ann Power was removed because she was inaccurately associated with the Weather Underground.
As Graham himself so elegantly put it to one of the commenters on his blog recently: “I’m supposed to take your word for it that Powers [sic] didn’t consider herself a member of the Weather Underground…and NOT the FBI? You know–the people who actually investigated the crime?”
Michael, I’m taking the FBI’s word for it. How about you?
Kincaid responds: “Dear Professor: So what was inaccurate about it? This doesn’t explain anything. In order to clear this up, I strongly suggest that you explain who at the FBI you contacted, and who in the Bureau made this change on your behalf. What’s more, please tell me how this last-minute change refutes anything former FBI official Revell told me, or what was contained in the Senate report? How does it refute Romerstein’s comments? And what about the Park Station bombing case? You have a lot more explaining (and correcting) to do. You’re not out of the woods by any stretch. Sorry, but I won’t let you off the hook. Cliff Kincaid.”
Well, Cliff, you’ve got me. Regular readers of Media Nation know what great pull and clout I have with the FBI. I was hoping you wouldn’t find out.