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