Talk radio host Michael Savage is a reliable Donald Trump ally. But there’s one place where even he thinks the president has gone too far: jokes about Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg’s height.
“Stop attacking Bloomberg’s height! ” Savage tweeted on Tuesday. “It’s a losing position. And, millions of Hispanic immigrants vote, many are shorter than Bloomberg.”
Trump fans have cheered Trump’s flurry of attacks on the former New York City mayor’s height—including dubbing him “Mini-Mike,” alleging without proof that Bloomberg wants to stand on a box at debate podiums, and comparing him to a “tiny” version of Jeb Bush. But some people think it’s a political loser. Short people, after all, are voters too. And why run the risk of offending them?
The height issue may be personal for Savage, who’s listed on Google and IMDB as either 5’4” or 5’7”. But the trash-talking radio host, who didn’t respond to a request for comment about his own height, isn’t the only person fed up with Trump’s attacks on Bloomberg’s height.
Tanya Osensky, the author of height discrimination book Shortchanged, said Trump’s attacks on Bloomberg’s height aren’t just political fraught, but morally repugnant too, making short people feel insecure about their own stature.
“It’s like any insult—it makes you feel bad about yourself, it’s a physical feature that you can’t help,” Osensky said.
This isn’t the first time Trump has attacked a political foe’s height with a nickname. Trump dubbed Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) “Little Marco” during the 2016 campaign primaries and declared that critical then-Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) was “Liddle Bob.”
But Trump has gone further—and more specific—with his attacks on Bloomberg, claiming on Thursday that the former mayor is a “5’4” mass of dead energy.”
In fact, the billionaire candidate is 5’7”, according to a doctor’s letter released in December—two inches shorter than the national average for a man. Bloomberg shot back that Trump had “squandered” his family’s fortune.
The Bloomberg campaign declined to comment, while Trump’s campaign declined a request for comment.
Osensky said Trump’s attacks take advantage of long-running stereotypes about short men as weak or ineffectual.
“People associate short people with certain personality characteristics,” she said. “They always assume that short people are not going to be powerful, that they are not going to be good leaders.”
While Trump’s height-based insults may be distasteful and hurtful to other short people who have nothing to do with Bloomberg’s campaign, Osensky doubts they’ll unite short people to cast votes against the president.
“Short people are just not organized,” Osensky said. “It’s not like a coalition or anything.”
Trump’s attacks on Bloomberg have also stirred discussion on forums devoted to short people. On Reddit’s “R/Shortcels” forum, a misogynist discussion where bragging about height is banned and much of the debate revolves around complaining that women won’t date self-identified “manlets,” Trump’s Bloomberg tweets have been a hot topic.
“It’s fine strategy because short men have no allies,” wrote one unhappy poster, while others debated whether Bloomberg is too tall to truly qualify as short.
Trump’s height-based attacks play on widespread “heightist” beliefs, according to Brock McGoff, author of short men’s fashion blog The Modest Man.
“If I were a fan of Trump (which I'm not), I think this would cause some real cognitive dissonance,” McGoff said in an email. “To see someone in a position of extreme power and influence—or any adult human, for that matter—make fun of someone else for something they can’t control (like height) is disappointing. Unfortunately, it’s not unexpected here.”
But McGoff wasn’t entirely sympathetic to Bloomberg. As an expert on fashion for short men, however, he said the former mayor’s clothing choices are “working against him.” Presented with a selection of Bloomberg’s outfits, McGoff described them as “really hard to watch.”
“Guys like Bloomberg have no excuse to wear ill-fitting clothing,” McGoff told The Daily Beast. “Money isn’t an issue for him. His suits should be custom made, or at least tailored to his build.”