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Interview with Andy Borowitz, Robert Reich

Aired June 24, 2003 - 19:38   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: The Food and Drug administration considering a new hormone that could boost growth in short kids by as much as 3 inches. Now, taking hormones seems like an extreme measure for gaining a few inches, and you're probably taller than the average oompa loompa or you may not know how a price short people pay for not measuring up.
Bruce Burkhardt did some measuring.


BRUCE BURKHARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If you're bald, why not buy hair. Small breasts, why not enhance?

Now if you're a short or at least a kid, maybe, just maybe, you can be taller. The FDA considering a hormone for shorter than average children. Up until now, the hormones only approved for children with growth hormone deficiency. That is those that without the hormones would likely be midgets. While in many areas like shortness, I would told to keep the story short, for instance, in people, specifically men, tall is good, short is funny.

MICHAEL MYERS, ACTOR: Mini Me, you complete me

BURKHARDT: It funny in the movies. It's funny in songs.


BURKHARDT: Except short isn't funny if you're short. To get an idea, try talking to a professional basketball player sometime. It's unnerving to look up at the world. And while we might like to think we don't judge a book by the cover, height is an advantage. Most CEOs are taller than average. Which, by the way, 5'9" 1/2 inches in men. Just yesterday, height won out, 6'10" Ivo Karlovic, upset defending Wimbledon champ Lleyton Hewitt 5'11".

BURKHARDT NO. 1(on camera): To test ourselves, who's going to get your attention more? Me or...


Who has more authority? Who will you believe more?

I think I need a shorter photographer. This is Bruce Burkhardt, CNN, Atlanta.


COOPER: All right. We wanted to look at the issue from top to bottom. I'm sorry, but they force me to say these things sometimes. We have Andy Borowitz who weighs in at 6'4" inches, an author of "Who Moved my Sofa Seat." And in Boston, Robert Reich, 4'10", former labor secretary.

ROBERT REICH, AUTHOR "I'll be Short": 4'10" and a half. In my thick socks.

COOPER: OK. 4'10" and a half, also, the author of "I'll be Short Among Many Other Books." Gentleman, thank you for being with us. Let's start with you.

Mr. Secretary, is being short in our society so bad?

REICH: I don't think it's so bad. I think there's a lot advantages. I think it's environmentally much more responsible in terms of the oxygen you use and the amount of resources, I can get into an economy seat in an airline very, very comfortably. I think there are a lot of advantages. I don't want to belittle -- I suppose I shouldn't use that word. I don't want to belittle the real problems that a lot of short people have, but by the same token, look, I have actually much of my life enjoyed fairly short -- short -- not fairly short, very short.

COOPER: OK, Andy Borowitz, do you get lots of advantages from being tall?

ANDY BOROWITZ, 6'4" author, "Who Moved My Soap?": No. He mentions oxygen. Much less of it up here than there is down there, so I don't find it comfortable. I really think -- I'm so glad to talk about the silent suffering of tall people. Because we really don't have it so good...

REICH: My heart goes out to you. Other people like you.

BOROWITZ: Well, one of the problems is in the grocery store, people asking you to reach for things. We're really glorified tongs to most of the people in the world. And you would never ask a small person, say, if you like rolled a nickel you should a couch, we would never short a person to find that. It's amazing. We are sort of exploited, I feel.

COOPER: So maybe you're going to start a movement about this.

BOROWITZ: Absolutely, I'm starting it here and now tonight.

REICH: Andy, at cocktail parties, receptions, very often I can't see around me, I don't know who is there, and I ask somebody your size to act as my periscope.

Do you find that offensive?


REICH: Because if you do, that's too bad.

BOROWITZ: I feel my body is being exploited, that I am being objectified in a way. Yes, I guess, if we went together, I mean, I wouldn't mind if you asked me to because I know you to. But when a stranger asks me to perform sort of seeing eye task for them, I do.

COOPER: This is moving. I'm glad we can bridge the differences here.

That's really -- Mr. Secretary, now, you have accomplished a great deal in your lifetime.

Is there anything you haven't been able to do because of your height.

REICH: The New York Knicks. I really did want to be a basketball player for about a day. And I learned that was not going to be possible.

What else?

Well, there was an issue when I was a teenager -- for a while there was an issue in terms of dating girls because, you know, girls did not a lot of them relish the idea of appearing with a very, very short boy. But I'll tell you something I discovered. That is when I dance very closely with a girl, I nuzzled in at exactly the right spot.

COOPER: I'm not going to push that one any further.

Andy, any disadvantages you think to being short?

BOROWITZ: Well, to being tall there's some disadvantages. The basketball thing is a single case because people say, did you play basketball? Sometimes people think that I was a NBA star. I actually have an unwanted entourage, sort of a posse, if you will, who are always hitting me up for bling-bling whatever that is. So yeah, it's hard. It is hard.

COOPER: You also see -- you see secretary Reich as part of a larger group?

BOROWITZ: Yes, do. I do think that shorter people tend to go further in the world of politics, leadership. Napoleon, Kim Jong Ill and Secretary Reich. Sort of an axis of shortness. They have all done very well, and people like me are frozen out.

COOPER: Secretary Reich do you have..

REICH: I would like to think that's the case. But unfortunately data do tends to show, and I don't really like to pay attention to these data, but they do tend to show that the tall man does tend to win the political race and, also, get the girl.

But I don't pay much attention to the polls. But, you know, quite seriously, there are a lot of short young people who I sometimes hear from they write to me and say, should I take hormones?

Should I take hormone replacements?

Should I do whatever it is?

And I say to them, look, do what you want, but the most important thing -- and parents also call me and I say the most important thing is a child gets a lot of love.

COOPER: So you would not recommend at all the FDA approving the use of the hormones for children who are just short?

REICH: Well, I mean, generally speaking, I don't think that people ought to be taking a lot of things in the body if they're healthy already. Simply cosmetically, simply to look more normal, but that's obviously a decision up to individuals.

BOROWITZ: I agree with the secretary here because, you know what's happening now, we're trying to perfect our kids with drugs. We are going to have a race of children who are eight feet tall with double 800's on their SAT's. I am not sure I want to live in that world.

REICH: I certainly don't wanted it because I wouldn't be able to see anybody.

COOPER: Absolutely. All right, lets leave it there. Gentleman, Robert Reich appreciate you joining us. Andy Borowitz, always good talking to you.


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