Romney Accused Of Attack On Presumed Gay Student As Teen

I am in Omaha, Nebraska today to speak at the Hilton Omaha where Mitt Romney will be raising cash in a private fundraiser for his campaign. It will be interesting if he is pressed on this story picking up steam this week. Romney has been accused of former school chums from his elite all-boy boarding school of attacking a presumed gay student and cutting off his hair. Since in many states the attack on the now-deceased John Lauber would be a hate crime, it is a serious charge even if it was so many years ago. The witness turns out to be a former prosecutor who says that he has been haunted by the act. This week Romney reaffirmed that he opposed same-sex marriage as a personal matter. Update: Romney has apologized for incidents in his youth.

The Washington Post spoke to five students, including one who said that Romney had it out for a younger boy because of his long bleached-blond hair in 1965. The witness say that Romney led friends in tackling and cutting off Lauber’s hair. The witness is Thomas Buford, a retired prosecutor. Romney is quoted at the time as declaring “He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!”

The response from the campaign was a bit weak under the circumstances. The campaign simply said that Romney had no recollection of the event: “The stories of fifty years ago seem exaggerated and off base and Governor Romney has no memory of participating in these incidents.”

I have met Romney and even flew across the country on a flight back to Washington. He has struck me as a particularly friendly and decent person despite our disagreement on many issues. However, despite the long passage of time, the leading of an attack on a gay student is a serious matter as it would in a racist or anti-Semitic attack. I would have expected a clear recollection that such an attack could never have occurred.

Four other students recalled the incident, including some who admitted to participating in it. Also troubling are accounts like this one: “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!'”

While Romney may claim that it was not an anti-gay attack but just a prank, one would expect him to have an equally clear memory of the event at the prestigious Cranbrook School. Certainly the memory stuck with Lauber who spoke to some of the witnesses years later. For my part, I am equally troubled by the claim of a lack of any recollection of such events.

Romney however appears to be trying to get ahead of the story and the confirmatory accounts of former friends. On a radio show, he said “Back in high school, I did some dumb things and if anybody was hurt by that or offended, obviously I apologize for that. I participated in a lot of hijinks and pranks during high school and some might have gone too far and for that, I apologize.” However, he still denied any recollection of the attack on Lauber: “I don’t remember that incident. 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.”

Do you think this is a viable campaign issue given the passage of time? If he was a bully decades ago, does it have bearing today on the man running for office?

Source: Washington Post

192 thoughts on “Romney Accused Of Attack On Presumed Gay Student As Teen”

  1. The Washington Post Responds To Right-Wing Criticism Over Romney Prep School Piece

    “I always enjoyed his pranks,” said Stu White, a popular friend of Romney’s who went on to a career as a public school teacher and has long been bothered by the Lauber incident. “But I was not the brunt of any of his pranks.”

    got changed to:

    “I always enjoyed his pranks,” said Stu White, a popular friend of Romney’s who went on to a career as a public school teacher and said he has been “disturbed” by the Lauber incident since hearing about it several weeks ago, before being contacted by The Washington Post. “But I was not the brunt of any of his pranks.”

    That’s not a correction, that’s a significant change in the meaning. On a story like this, WaPo should have got it right the first time.

  2. Top Romney aide outed transgender woman in political smear
    By David Ferguson
    Friday, May 11, 2012

    Eric Fehrnstrom, a top aide and political strategist to presumptive Republican presidential candidate former Gov. Mitt Romney (MA), made headlines earlier this year with a gaffe comparing Romney in the primary fight to an “Etch a Sketch” that you can flip over and shake and start over with as a blank slate in the general election. Before he was an adviser to Romney, Fehrnstrom was a political columnist for the Boston Herald. According to a profile in GQ, in 1992, he outed recently-elected Massachusetts Rep. Althea Garrison (R) as a transgender woman, effectively ending her political career.

    To Mara Keisling, director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, the malicious outing and the presence of Fehrnstrom on Romney’s staff is simply unacceptable.

    “Privacy for transgender people is a matter of survival, physical and economic survival,” Keisling told Raw Story, “Once you out a trans person, you can’t just ‘Etch a Sketch’ it away.”

    Fehrnstrom made his name in Boston as a “blue-collar conservative” columnist whose hard-hitting style got him moved from sports reporting to the political beat at the Rupert Murdoch-owned Herald, which was the splashy, tabloid-style counterpart to the more staid Boston Globe. He and his fellow reporter Howie Carr brought what GQ called a “nasty and resentful” tone to the paper’s political reportage, making the Herald a kind of perfect weapon against the 1988 Democratic presidential nominee, gormless former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis.

    It was for a local official, however, that Fehrnstrom reserved one of his nastiest political hits. Althea Garrison was a Boston politician and activist who was elected as a Republican to the Massachusetts state House in 1992. Two days after her election victory, Fehrnstrom published an article in the Herald announcing that Garrison had been born male.

    “I can remember his glee when he found the birth certificate,” said a former Herald reporter named Robert Connolly.

    Garrison’s career in politics was over. Speculation had previously gone around the community about Garrison’s gender status, but after Fehrnstrom’s story, it became her defining characteristic to the media. In every mention of her name in the press, her performance as a House member was overshadowed by her gender identity. Howie Carr, who is now a conservative talk show host, wrote in the Herald not long after the outing, “I’ve always liked Althea. She has a big heart. Not to mention big feet. And very, very big hands.”

    The outing of Althea Garrison raises serious questions about the culture of the Romney campaign, where Fehrnstrom operates as a privileged member of the command team and as Romney’s longest-serving, most-trusted political strategist. It has been said that if Karl Rove was “Bush’s brain,” then Fehrnstrom is “Romney’s balls.”

    Mara Keisling told Raw Story that Ferhnstrom’s campaign against Garrison is “just more bullying. It’s an invasion of privacy. We’ve had five or six hate murders of trans people across the U.S. just in the last six weeks.” She said that these kinds of tactics represent the worst form of transphobia, describing it as “putting people at risk just because you get your jollies from it.”

    Also, in recent days, stories of violent, homophobic “pranks” during Romney’s prep school years have come to light, incidents which the candidate claims not to remember, but for which he issued a shallow, blanket apology, “There’s no question that I did some stupid things in high school and, obviously, if I hurt anyone by virtue of that I would be very sorry for it and apologize for it.”

    To Fehrnstrom, on the other hand, the careers and reputations he savaged were of little consequence. In a 1999 article he wrote for Boston magazine, he said, “In my trade, politics was never personal. Hell, people were rarely people — they were ducks in a shooting gallery.”

    Althea Garrison herself refuses to speak about the experience of being outed by Fernstrom. Raw Story reached her by telephone, but when the former state representative realized that the person on the phone was a reporter asking about Fehrnstrom, she ended the discussion.

    “I don’t have time for this today,” she said, and hung up.

  3. OK now, Geeba Geeba, look at this OK?

    “Boy are all you people just sorry victims? Yes, WE are all victims of “bigger kids” messing with us. Some of us get over it. I was certainly bullied and I remember all the incidents. I got even with some, not others. This is the law of the land folks. Be stronger and better than the others ooorrrr let the State coddle you and be the sorry wimps that some of us are. MAN UP.

    Well now, you traveled from “People are criticizing Romney for being a bully” to “They’re ‘just sorry victims’ and ‘worry wimps’ and they need to ‘MAN UP.'”

    So, if I get this right, somebody like Romney can bully somebody else who is not “stronger and better than” he is? And there’s no issue with that? That’s OK, that’s the American way? And perhaps seeing things differently is equivalent to “let[ting] the state coddle you?” And that, letting of coddling, that’s “WOMANED DOWN?”

    So get yousselves into a position to be manned-up enough to be stronger and better than others so you can bully them instead of expecting to be coddled, right?

    Vote for a bully, Geeba. But if something happens to you that you don’t like, don’t come running to me. That Constitution stuff and all that equal protection, that’s for sorry wimps.

  4. Dredd, no Professor Turley was in Omaha Nebraska to moderate a panel that was presenting an interactive seminar for lawyers on fairness in the courts. His panel was presenting information on “the cultural defense” and other issues having to do with cultural differences among defendants who are accused of crimes. Mostly. That is, an immigrant gets charged with a crime for doing something that is culturally OK where he comes from, that is a crime here, and how do you defend him, and how do you address this issue, etc. The presentation is called “Strangers in a Strange Land.”

    Unfortunately, ordinary Americans are also “Strangers in a Strange Land” as soon as they step into court. The ground shifts under you. Suddenly facts do not equal evidence; suddenly things you need to show cannot be shown because of section 62.115(a) et seq. Suddenly although you are placed under oath, the proceeding turns into a lie before your very eyes. Nothing can prepare you for the culture shock you get by entering the virtual reality of the courthouse.

    But that’s another story. For another day. And so forth.

  5. @ Jack, I can’t understand your post, man. Let me try to see what on earth you’re talking about before I respond.

    YOU WRITE: Malisha, are you nuts?

    OK, that I got. Well, the answer is: Define your terms. If ‘nuts’ means ‘in disagreement with Jack,’ then, YES. If, on the other hand, ‘nuts’ means ‘psychotic, unable to distinguish reality from delusions,’ then, NO.

    Next, YOU WRITE::

    You think this was about exerting some religious dominance? Really?

    Uh, I think you’re saying that my mention of “tonsure” was an indication that I thought Romney cut the kid’s hair to exert his (Romney’s) religious dominance? No. Here’s an explanation of my meaning:

    Background: I never heard of “tonsure” but I’m a curious person. I have friends who had a baby and they held a christening ceremony in the Greek Orthodox Church and then had a big party afterwards. Lovely ceremony in a lovely church. But I did not understand parts of it. So at the party afterwards, I approached the Eastern Orthodox Priest and asked why they cut the baby’s hair at the Christening. He said that it was to “increase the child’s tonsure to the Lord” and then he gave me a very interesting lesson about the reason for the cut hair, shaved head, and so forth, in religious history. It all symbolizes SUBMISSION on the part of the person whose hair is cut. In a way, it’s the Samson/Delilah story. You’re shaving your head in submission to the authority. The image I was speaking about with Romney — and I will not say that I am sure he did it, but assuming he did it — was not a religious issue, but a dominance issue, and the symbolic meaning of cutting the hair was not initially religious in history either, but originally SUBMISSIVE to authority. So if Romney did that, my point was, cutting the hair of the inferior person against his will is a sign of your superiority to him, a sign that he is being forced into submission.

    What I meant, then, was that ONE of the OBVIOUS ramifications of forcibly cutting a bullied youngster’s hair is: I HAVE MY FOOT ON YOUR NECK.


    Second, if a bully thinks something is legitimately funny at the time, he is much more inclined to forget about it.

    Well, I guess this means that I should agree that it would be probable that Romney could have forgotten about the incident because he would have “thought it was legitimately funny at the time,” right?

    Wow, Jack, I don’t know what to think about that. It doesn’t even make sense to me. You’re saying that he would have forgotten it because IT BEING “LEGITIMATELY FUNNY” [whatever that means] to him at the time would necessarily mean that he thought nothing of it and it just passed out of his memory like the odor of someone passing wind in a large room, right? Am I still with you? Well I suppose there is a possibility that, considering all the neuroscience and psychometrics involved, Romney could have thought so little about the funny (the “legitimately funny”) incident at the time that he no longer remembers it, but that would really scare me about him. It would mean that in the next few days, in the next few weeks, and in the next few months, and even in the next few years after it happened, he never once thought, “Jeez, maybe I shouldn’t have done that.” NOT ONCE? It was just “legitimately funny” at the time and then “legitimately forgotten” thereafter? DO NOT LIKE IT! I remember something from when I was a kid, that wasn’t even me doing deliberate harm to someone. I was taking part in a little nasty private session, with another kid, criticizing the LOOKS (not the behavior) of a teacher. We should have been ashamed of ourselves. But we weren’t — until she came down the stairs and we were still giggling. She smiled kindly at us and said “Hi girls, what’s the joke?” I’m sure I blushed horribly. This made me think she would have assumed we were being cruel. Now, thinking back, I’m pretty sure she had no such idea, for she kept walking and didn’t even blink. Yet for months I wondered if she had heard our unkind chatter and suffered from it. A person with a conscience remembers things they do that are wrong, if it is possible those things caused suffering in another person. That’s what makes us human. I do not like the idea that he could have inflicted a physical assault and a deliberate humiliation on someone who did him no harm, and then blissfully forgotten about it, even if it’s because he thought that it was “legitimately funny.”


    I’ve had 3 polygraphs for security clearances and it’s amazing the things you do and do joy remember when under the bright lights.

    I just didn’t get this one so I can’t comment at all. I will take this opportunity to tell a little story, though. One time I was booked for a radio show (to be done by phone) to debate Eric Foretich (right after Elizabeth Morgan was released from the DC jail) for an hour-long program. I was ready. The phone rang. The producer said that at the last minute Foretich decided to bow out so they were using the whole hour to interview ME on the case! HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! I said, OK, and we began. Somewhere toward the middle, the interviewer asked me if I knew that Foretich had taken a polygraph test or somesuch. I either had or hadn’t, can’t remember that part now either. So I commented. In my comments, I said that (a) sociopaths were notoriously good at lying and that they could easily pass polygraph tests as well; and that (b) there were well-known ways to trick the polygraph tests anyway. Then there was time for call-in questions. One call-in was a guy who asked me what those ways were to trick the polygraph tests! I laughed and said that he would have to check them with someone else, because I wasn’t going to broadcast them on this program. The interviewer laughed too.

    And if it’s true that this kids family never found out then it’s wasn’t epidemic.

    ??? I don’t think it would have to be “epidemic” for it to have happened. Do YOU think it would have had to be “epidemic” for it to have happened? Because there are some bad things that have very bad results and they are still not “epidemic.” So I guess I didn’t get that part of it.


    I didn’t tell me parents about lots of stuff – to your point – but they know who the bullies were because it happens repeatedly.

    Well, I think this means that if Romney had done this, and the victim had not told his parents, that means that Romney was not really a bully, just had done one bullying thing against the kid and nothing more. Well, no, it doesn’t mean that. Look at all the variables we do not know, in this issue, Jack:

    1. Do we know that the victim, now deceased, had the kind of relationship with his parents where he would tell them about a lot of bullying as opposed to a small amount of bullying?

    2. Do we know that the people who interviewed the family of the victim asked them in general about whether their son described bullying conduct at school?

    3. Do we know anything about what would motivate the family of the deceased victim to divulge any of this information? Do we know who they are, what would bother them, what would shame them, what would disturb them, now? Or back then? Or how good THEIR memory is since you say Romney’s wasn’t all that good?

    4. Parents don’t necessarily know that someone is a bully just because the kids have suffered at their hands. I told my mother lots of stuff (my father less) about what happened in school but I generally omitted anything that I still felt embarrassed about. For instance, one kid used to swerve by on his bike while I walked my brother to school, and he would shout “Christ-Killers, Christ-Killers” every damn morning. I never told my mother because I felt like I should have confronted him but I was afraid to, so we both shut up about it. Another time, a kid beat up another kid (the victim’s name was Jan) and I didn’t tell because I was afraid, but about two weeks later, he came at us (my brother and me) and I had to fight him because my brother used crutches. I scratched him and then I was scared because he had a scratch on his face that showed, but he never told and I never told either. (He was ashamed he got blown off by a GIRL!) Word somehow got around the school, and a really big kid whom I had tutored heard, and from that day forward he came to our door 10 minutes early and walked both of us to school. I never told my mother about that either; she just thought he was being gallant because I had tutored him for a year. I can’t remember the bullies’ names; there were about half a dozen of them in grade school and everybody knew who they were, but probably most of the parents did not. Bullying was not a topic we spoke about in school back then, which means, of course, that people like Romney, if they were bullies, would never have been called down for it unless somebody was so badly hurt that the school’s insurance was implicated in a lawsuit.

    The only thing your mailing a case for was that it was a one off thing.

    Didn’t get that.


    And bless your utopia world that never had freshman hazing.

    Well, I never joined a sorority so I didn’t know about hazing. When I was a freshman I had 15 credit hours and had to work 20 hours a week so maybe I didn’t hear about all the excitement around me, but I thought we were talking about high school experiences. There might have been freshman hazing in the sororities or fraternities when I was in college, but in high school, (a) if there was hazing I didn’t know about it; and (b) if anybody got their hair cut by another student, I think I would have heard about it, and I never did.


    You have no credibility.

    Well now this is interesting. It’s what I call a “conclusory allegation” and I would have to question your credentials before I would qualify you as an expert on it anyway. Besides, arguendo, let’s assume that I have NO credibility. What does that say about Romney?

    “Hey Romney, don’t worry about what you did or might have done or can’t remember doing, way back then. Malisha, who has chosen to comment negatively on it publicly, has no credibility.”

    I guess that’s settled.

    Particularly since you’ve swallowed so hard on crappy journalism.

    Hmmmm. I might leave this one alone. Except to say that if I have, it has only served to strengthen my immune system. See ibid, quo ante, i.e.

  6. Malisha,

    FWIW, I went to a wide variety of schools, both public and private, and I can say that hazing was a culture particular to each and every school – some had it, some didn’t. The one commonality I noticed was the more responsive and involved the faculty were, the less likely there was to be any hazing.

  7. Malisha,

    Jack wrote: “And bless your utopia world that never had freshman hazing. You have no credibility.”

    You have credibilty with me. There was no hazing at the regional Catholic high school that I attended in the 1960s. Students weren’t in the habit of bullying each other either. That was left to the nuns who taught us!


  8. Malisha, are you nuts? You think this was about exerting some religious dominance? Really? Second, if a bully thinks something is legitimately funny at the time, he is much more inclined to forget about it. I’ve had 3 polygraphs for security clearances and it’s amazing the things you do and do joy remember when under the bright lights. And if it’s true that this kids family never found out then it’s wasn’t epidemic. I didn’t tell me parents about lots of stuff – to your point – but they know who the bullies were because it happens repeatedly. The only thing your mailing a case for was that it was a one off thing.

    And bless your utopia world that never had freshman hazing. You have no credibility. Particularly since you’ve swallowed so hard on crappy journalism.

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