Mitt Romney, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, was a gay-bashing high school bully who said, “Atta girl,” to effeminate boys and shockingly had a days-long emotional attack that culminated with him pinning down a gay classmate and cutting off his bleached-blond long hair. Governor Romney claims he has no memory of any of these incidents that date back to 1965, according to a lengthy and heart-wrenching exposé in today’s Washington Post. An excerpt:
John Lauber, a soft-spoken new student one year behind Romney, was perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality. Now he was walking around the all-boys school with bleached-blond hair that draped over one eye, and Romney wasn’t having it.
“He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!” an incensed Romney told Matthew Friedemann, his close friend in the Stevens Hall dorm, according to Friedemann’s recollection. Mitt, the teenaged son of Michigan Gov. George Romney, kept complaining about Lauber’s look, Friedemann recalled.
A few days later, Friedemann entered Stevens Hall off the school’s collegiate quad to find Romney marching out of his own room ahead of a prep school posse shouting about their plan to cut Lauber’s hair. Friedemann followed them to a nearby room where they came upon Lauber, tackled him and pinned him to the ground. As Lauber, his eyes filling with tears, screamed for help, Romney repeatedly clipped his hair with a pair of scissors.
The incident was recalled similarly by five students, who gave their accounts independently of one another. Four of them — Friedemann, now a dentist; Phillip Maxwell, a lawyer; Thomas Buford, a retired prosecutor; and David Seed, a retired principal — spoke on the record. Another former student who witnessed the incident asked not to be named. The men have differing political affiliations, although they mostly lean Democratic. Buford volunteered for Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008. Seed, a registered independent, has served as a Republican county chairman in Michigan. All of them said that politics in no way colored their recollections.
“It happened very quickly, and to this day it troubles me,” said Buford, the school’s wrestling champion, who said he joined Romney in restraining Lauber. Buford subsequently apologized to Lauber, who was “terrified,” he said. “What a senseless, stupid, idiotic thing to do.”
“It was a hack job,” recalled Maxwell, a childhood friend of Romney who was in the dorm room when the incident occurred. “It was vicious.”
The Post article concludes with an emotional note about John Lauber:
He came out as gay to his family and close friends and led a vagabond life, taking dressage lessons in England and touring with the Royal Lipizzaner Stallion riders.
His hair thinned as he aged, and in the winter of 2004 he returned to Seattle, the closest thing he had to a base. He died there of liver cancer that December.
He kept his hair blond until he died, said his sister Chris. “He never stopped bleaching it.”
But Lauber was not the only target for the gay-bashing Mitt Romney.
In an English class, Gary Hummel, who was a closeted gay student at the time, recalled that his efforts to speak out in class were punctuated with Romney shouting, “Atta girl!” In the culture of that time and place, that was not entirely out of the norm. Hummel recalled some teachers using similar language.
Saul, Romney’s campaign spokeswoman, said the candidate has no recollection of the incident.
Yes, it was 1965, a different time, when these acts of anti-gay bullying were not just ignored or accepted, but often condoned.
But the handful of Mitt Romney’s classmates who either participated or didn’t stop it, not only remember his gay-bashing, they feel terrible about it. For Romney to not remember, and thus not be affected by his own gay-bashing, speaks volumes about his character.
The Romney campaign, and others, no doubt would say it was 1965. It doesn’t matter. But Mitt Romney married his wife Ann in 1969, just four years later, and that certainly matters in his campaign.
And they have on their campaign website a video that shows Mitt’s life, beginning with 1968, with the note:
“I think there’s one word that would be high on my list of a few words you would describe Mitt with. It would be trust. I think the qualities Mitt would bring to the Oval Office would be integrity, intelligence, an ability to see a problem and see a solution and make people recognize that he has those leadership qualities that would unite many people.” – Ann Romney
At what point do your actions matter?
Editor’s update: This morning Mitt Romney spoke on this issue.
Read our report: Romney Minimizes Gay-Bashing: ‘In High School I Did Some Dumb Things’
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