Last year’s string of heartbreaking suicides by young members of the LGBT community who had been bullied by their classmates led hundreds of celebrities, sports teams, politicians and ordinary citizens to record “It Gets Better” videos. Even President Obama recorded one.
One politician who has not: Mitt Romney, who has been relatively silent on the issue. This morning, a story in The Washington Post reveals that the presidential candidate engaged in bullying behavior during his days at a prestigious preparatory school in Michigan:
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.
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.
Jason Horowitz spoke with five students who attended Cranbrook School at the same time as Romney, and all of them independently recalled the same story. Mitt Romney was asked about the Post’s story during a live radio broadcast with Fox News host Brian Kilmeade, apologizing before explaining that he didn’t remember many of the details of what took place: “Back in high school, I did some dumb things and if anybody was hurt by that or offended, obviously I apologize for that…I don’t remember that incident,” Romney said, laughing. “I certainly don’t believe that I thought the fellow was homosexual. That was the furthest thing from our minds back in the 1960s, so that was not the case.”
It seems odd that Romney would not recall such a bizarre event, especially since so many other students who were asked about it painted clear pictures of what transpired, but perhaps such “hijinks and pranks” were so frequent he has simply lost track of them all.
A separate incident, in which Romney ridiculed a closeted gay classmate by sarcastically praising him with “atta girl!” comments, helps paint a troubling picture for the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee. To date, Romney has not stepped forward to support any bills that seek to protect LGBT students from the kind of bullying that Romney himself participated in while in high school.
But the presumptive Republican nominee has made it clear where he stands on LGBT rights today, 50 years after the incident. Just this week he again affirmed his position that gay couples should not receive equal recognition under the law as straight couples do.
This all stands in stark contrast with President Obama, who less than 24 hours ago became the first sitting occupant of the Oval Office to endorse same sex marriage.
Team Romney has begun reaching out to former classmates from the Cranbrook School to serve as surrogates for the campaign, but more news organizations have begun to dig around, too. ABC News spoke with one classmate who doesn’t have fond memories of Romney:
One former classmate and old friend of Romney’s – who refused to be identified by name – said there are “a lot of guys” who went to Cranbrook who have “really negative memories” of Romney’s behavior in the dorms, behavior this classmate describes as “evil” and “like Lord of the Flies.”