A high school friend of Mitt Romney recently recalled to The Washington Post that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee once bullied a fellow student who was thought to be gay.
Matthew Friedemann, who described himself as a “close” friend when Romney attended the prestigious Cranbrook School in 1965, said that the future Massachusetts governor picked on John Lauber. The Post described Lauber as a “a soft-spoken new student” who was “perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality.”
But it was Lauber’s long bleached-blonde hair that really set Romney off.
“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,” the Post‘s Jason Horowitz wrote. “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.”
In addition to Friedemann, Horowitz spoke to at least four other of Romney’s classmates who confirmed the incident.
“It happened very quickly, and to this day it troubles me,” retired prosecutor Thomas Buford admitted, noting that he later apologized to a “terrified” Lauber. “What a senseless, stupid, idiotic thing to do.”
Lauber died in 2004, but one of the students involved, retired principal David Seed, said he ran into his former victim at Chicago O’Hare International Airport in the mid-1990s.
“I’m sorry that I didn’t do more to help in the situation,” Seed confessed.
“It was horrible,” Lauber replied. “It’s something I have thought about a lot since then.”
In a statement, Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul dismissed the account as “exaggerated.”
“Anyone who knows Mitt Romney knows that he doesn’t have a mean-spirited bone in his body,” Saul said. “The stories of fifty years ago seem exaggerated and off base and Governor Romney has no memory of participating in these incidents.”
But on Thursday, Romney did not deny the prank in an interview with Fox News host Brian Kilmeade.
“If I did stupid things, I’m afraid I’ve got to say sorry for it,” he told Kilmeade, according to NBC’s Garrett Haake. “I’m quite a different guy now.”
Jim Bailey, who attended both Cranbrook and Harvard with Romney, said his friend began to become more serious after meeting future wife and going on a Mormon mission to France.
“Mitt began to change as a person when he met Ann Davies,” Bailey remembered. “She was part of the process of him maturing and becoming more of the person he is today.”
The revelation that the former governor may have bullied a gay student comes just one day after President Barack Obama announced his support for same sex marriage, something that the Republican candidate disagrees with.
Romney’s campaign has tried to use their candidate’s more mischievous side as proof he is not as stiff as people seem to believe.
“I still look at him as the boy that I met in high school when he was playing all the jokes and really just being crazy, pretty crazy,” Ann Romney told CBS News earlier this month. “And so there’s a wild and crazy man inside of there just waiting to come out!”
Photo: Flickr/Gage Skidmore