Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mitt was mean. What does that mean?

So we're not sure what to do about today's Washington Post story on Mitt Romney being a bully almost a half-century ago. The story, published the morning after President Barack Obama endorsed gay marriage, recounts how Romney tormented a private high school classmate for his "presumed homosexuality."

Already, the report has prompted some serious buzz, and it's sure to be affirmational for many who see a troubling lack of compassion in Romney's conservatism. But should it be?

First, a few details. The incident happened 46 years ago at the prestigious Cranbrook School in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. Writes reporter Jason Horowitz:
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.
Romney, through a spokesman, initially said he didn't remember the incident. Five classmates, including one who has served as a Republican county chairman in Michigan, say it happened, and moments ago Romney offered an apology for doing "dumb things" in high school.

Does it matter? The story is emblematic of a time where society's attitudes about bullying and homosexuals were starkly different than today. That certainly doesn't excuse an incident that clearly traumatized the victim, as the story goes on to say.

But is it a window into Romney's soul - or the ugly immaturity of a teenage boy? Considering our teen years, we'd be inclined to lean toward the latter, but Romney nevertheless was smart to take another sweep through his memory and find some regret.

Peter St. Onge


Wilma said...

This is not even news worthy! At least there are adults who even remember Romney in his youth, can't say that for Obama. Other than his own recounts of eating dog as a boy. Total crock!

Anonymous said...

Where's the article about all that crazy stuff Barry Obama did while he was in high school and college? He must have been a saint, because nobody remembers him, and all records of his attendance seem to have vanished.

Skippy said...

Of course you are not sure "what to do about it". Ask you self this sycophants, were was this "curiosity" back when Obama was the candidate? I don't seem to remember any reporting on Obama's high school years, or his heavy cocaine use, this affiliation for hanging out with cop killing terrorists called the Weather Underground, his house purchase next to convicted felon tony Rezco, a claim by Larry Sinclair that he did drugs with Obama and had sex with him.

One word comes to mind - pathetic.

Reggie Mantle said...

It's interesting how some are allowed to peer as far back as they'd like about Romney...

...but ask anything about the Chosen One's background and you're a racist!

Dale said...

Why deflect the criticism to Obama when this is about Mitt Romney?

Oh, sorry. That's your agenda.

The Observer Editorial Board said...


We did write about Tony Rezco and Obama's cocaine use in 2008 on our blog, The Ballot - and we asked the same questions about their relevance as we're asking on this story.


Randle P McMurphy said...

Did you even bother to read beyond the first page of the article? The 'presumed' homosexuality was the presumption of another student, with no apparent relationship with Romney. The original article was very biased, and by referring to only a small part of it you make it even more biased.

wwilliams said...

Obama attends an Islamic school as a ten year old, he is "raised" in Islamic Indonesia until his teen years, he ate dog as a boy as pointed out by the Romney camp three weeks ago, etc, etc, etc.

This is the far right playbook. You are supposed to stand there and get punched and not hit back, when you do the reaction of stunned outrage is exceeded only by the stupidity causing it.

As much as the right wants to paint Obama as the next Carter,he is a centrist deal maker, and a cold-blooded assassin of our enemies, having talked less about and killed more of Al Queda than Bush ever dreamed of doing.

The Observer Editorial Board said...


The article does not say the presumption of homosexuality was that of another student with no apparent relationship to Romney. It says the student was perpetually teased for his "presumed homosexuality," and it cites Romney as one who was particularly troubled by the student's appearance.

Randle P McMurphy said...

Observer Editorial Board:
The article mentions only the comment of a hollywood screenwriter:

“He was very quiet, not a jock,” said Steph Lady. “Very soft-spoken. I know nothing, probably gay, but who knows. We were so stupid and na├»ve. I know there was homosexuality there but we didn’t even have a word for it. And there was homophobia then, too.”

That is the substantiation of "presumed homosexual". There is no reference to Romney thinking he was.

The Observer Editorial Board said...

From the last 3 paragraphs of the story:

The boy few at Cranbrook knew or remember was born in Chicago, grew up in South Bend, Ind., and had a hard time fitting in. He liked to wander and “had a glorious sense of the absurd,” according to his sister Betsy. When the chance to get out of Indiana presented itself, he jumped at it, and enrolled at Cranbrook. He never uttered a word about Mitt Romney or the haircut incident to his sisters. After Cranbrook asked him to leave, he finished high school, attended the University of the Seven Seas for two semesters, then graduated in 1970 from Vanderbilt, where he majored in English.

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. After an extreme fit of temper in front of his mother and sister at home in South Bend, he checked into the Menninger Clinic psychiatric hospital in Topeka, Kan. Later he received his embalmer’s license, worked as a chef aboard big freighters and fishing trawlers, and cooked for civilian contractors during the war in Bosnia and then, a decade later, in Iraq. 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.”

Randle P McMurphy said...

OK, so years later he came out. The only substantiation of "presumed homosexuality" is what a hollywood screenwriter apparently thought. It's clear that the original author and the Observer board wish us to believe that Romney thought he was, but there is still no substantiation of it in the article.

The Observer Editorial Board said...


The boy was perpetually teased for his "presumed homosexuality," according to the article. If the author made that up, as you're suggesting, you can bet we'll be seeing a retraction when those were interviewed for the article complain. Otherwise, you can safely assume that the author gained that information from the people in the story.

The point today, however, was whether Romney bullying someone a half-century ago tells us anything about now.

CharlotteIn2012 said...

They forced us to go to West Charlotte from Myers Park during segregation, and I had my head kicked in.

I don't remember if they also kicked in the head of a gay person, but I will find out as that is all that is important to the Observer.

kantstanzya said...

We might as well get used to this stuff...especially as the election gets closer and Obama looks like he might lose. The media will turn over every stone to make Romney look bad. Interview anyone who ever knew him. Investigate every lead to find people to say something bad about him.

Meanwhile 5 years after Obama started running for President we still don't know of anyone who remembers seeing him at Columbia. We finally heard about one of his girlfriends for the first time last week. The only things we know are his own ramblings from his two autobiographies. All his known radical associates like Bill Ayers are off limits.

That's just the way it will be. But as the comments show about this story, the media continually underestimates the intelligence of the American voter. This whole effort is embarrassingly transparent. People know what is going on and the more they do this stuff the more it will backfire on them.

Mitt Romney is a self made man with a great family. He achieved the American dream without the help of government. The liberals can't stand that. It is not a story they want to or can write about.

Randle P McMurphy said...

No, I think the effect (and probably the point) of the article is to portray Romney as a gay hater. If you look across the internet, that's the clear result.

Somehow, I expect that was your intent as well. You may deny doing it intentionally, but you still did it.

Europeanexpat said...

You may have written about Rezko or cocaine use, but did you ever write about Obama marching in 2007 with New Black Panthers and Malik Shaabaz? You know the party that offers bounties for heads of people.

What about this incident when Barack bullied little girl when he was in school? It comes from his own book.

Archiguy said...

Romney, like W Bush, was born with a silver spoon shoved into his mouth. He grew up a child of privilege and wealth, and exhibited the same kind of arrogance and entitlement so many of those people do. Making fun of the weak and powerless is what they do to make themselves feel superior, and there are rarely any consequences. Why should anyone be surprised at this story? There are likely dozens of similar ones that will never see the light of day.

It's rather sad to see the Defenders of the Right resort to fantasy and hyperbole to try to paint Obama as someone with similar proclivities. Not even close. The President worked hard for everything he ever got, and he got to the top. Nothing was handed to him. Romney? Please. EVERYthing was handed to him.

Not_a_hypocrit said...

Wonder if the Washington Post will come clean on the fact that one of the students that was quoted has since come forward to ABC as never being present when this was supposedly done.

Jonathan said...

The story is what it is. You can draw conclusions from it, or you can start being private investigators into Obama's "background" and "vet" him. Sadly, you may not find much there - nobody else really has.

Oh, and the snippets from Dreams from My Father are the best! I'm just glad you guys are reading the book, which has been out for almost 20 years. But I do find it funny that the right-wing is so reliant on Obama's own words in finding fault.

Europeanexpat said...

Obama also grew up as a child of privilege (maybe not to Romney's tune). He went to the most expensive high school in Hawaii, then on a foreign student scholarship to Occidental college. And the fact that he chose to be a "community organizer" instead of a well-paid attorney, just shows he either wasn't interested in money or didn't have what it takes to be a lawyer. Graduating law school, while helps, doesn't make you a good lawyer

Charlotteblue said...

I agree with Archiguy. How can anyone say Mitt was self made? If it were a contest of which person overcame more odds to achieve what they have in life thus far, Obama wins hands down.

Shamash said...

Ah, yes.

So this happened around the mid-1960's, right?

Let's see, wasn't that about the same time that John Lennon said the Beatles were more popular than Jesus Christ and started near riots and record burnings in the South?

It probably wasn't a question of whether he was "homosexual" or not but one of having hair that didn't "fit in".

That was VERY IMPORTANT back then.

Long hair of any type (especially dyed) would have been very odd and probably opened you up for bullying.

Archiguy said...

Europeanexpat - You clearly know nothing about the President. Maybe you've been overseas and missed the memo. He was raised by a single mother who dragged him all over the world wherever she could find work. In spite of all that, he excelled academically every step of the way and finished top of his class at Harvard Law, as well as being the youngest ever Editor of the prestigious Law Review. He was also an adjunct professor of Constitutional Law at Columbia.

I'd say all that knowledge probably would have made him a pretty decent lawyer, and that beginning his political career at the local level made him a more compassionate politician. Of course, if you've been programmed to irrationally hate him, as so many clearly have (just look at some of these comments), you might have a different opinion of "success".

Randle P McMurphy said...

How about this one (mentioned by someone earlier) from the article:
“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.”

But over at ABC they write:
While the Post reports White as having “long been bothered” by the haircutting incident,” he told ABC News he was not present for the prank, in which Romney is said to have forcefully cut a student’s long hair and was not aware of it until this year when he was contacted by the Washington Post.

Still don't think it was a smear piece?

Shamash said...

Meanwhile, back in 1966...

Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass
set a world record by placing five albums simultaneously on Billboard's Pop Album Chart, with four of them the Top 10.

Their music outsells The Beatles by a margin of two-to-one... over 13 million recordings.

They win 4 Grammys this year.

(and apparently became TWICE as famous as Jesus Christ...)

The Observer Editorial Board said...


The Post has four classmates who were present, so if you're disputing whether it happened, that's a difficult sell - especially given Romney's reaction. Again, what does it mean? We think not much.

CharlotteIn2012 said...

Thank you Observer Editors for posting this, and the many comments you have made in its defense.

True news outlets and Editorial Boards know how to present fair and unbiased news.

Anonymous said...

From "Dreams of my Father" (Obama shoves around girls

“Coretta has a boyfriend! Coretta has a boyfriend!”

The chants grew louder as a few more kids circled us.

“She’s not my g-girlfriend,” I stammered. I looked to Coretta for some assistance, but she just stood there looking down at the ground. “Coretta’s got a boyfriend! Why don’t you kiss her, mister boyfriend?”

“I’m not her boyfriend!” I shouted. I ran up to Coretta and gave her a slight shove; she staggered back and looked up at me, but still said nothing. “Leave me alone!” I shouted again. And suddenly Coretta was running, faster and faster, until she disappeared from sight. Appreciative laughs rose around me. Then the bell rang, and the teachers appeared to round us back into class.

Randle P McMurphy said...

Observer Board:
Yes, four of them said it happened. One of them said he (Romney) cut the hair. Another said he and Romney restrained him (Buford as a DA should know to be careful with his words). It's not real clear which would be correct. Not one of the witnesses has said that it occurred because Romney thought he was gay.

What I do dispute is your use of a synopsis of a first page of an article that is written in such a way that the reader is very likely to conclude that the kid's hair was forcibly cut because he was (presumably) gay. No witness says that, the author never actually says that, and you are careful to never actually say that, but you write things in such a way that the casual reader will draw that conclusion.

You're supposed to have an opinion and put it forth. I would just hope that you would have a little more integrity than what is demonstrated here. It's no better than what we see from both ends of the spectrum, you're just more artful.

DL said...

Obama supporters support him. Romney supporters support him. We each have our side and believe we are correct.

CharlotteIn2012 said...

If only this had happened in New York, and while in his youth, no one would have ever said a word about it.

The Observer Editorial Board said...


Thanks for your thoughts on this. I think there's a good question here about what information reporters decide to include and not to include in reports. It's something reporters confront frequently.

You're correct when you say that no one - the author, the participants, this post - says that Romney did this because the boy was presumed to be gay. But to exclude the information that classmates presumed him to be gay is to eliminate a potentially relevant possibility - that it was something Romney might have been considering. You see "presumed gay" as an indictment. It's not, and the author was careful not to make it so.

If the author had said he was "possibly gay," then you'd have a good reason for outrage, because the author would have been inventing motivation for Romney. But "presumed gay" means it was something his classmates had contemplated and believed about him.

It very well could be that Romney saw him merely as "different." Doesn't make Romney's behavior more palatable then, and it doesn't change the conclusion of this post - that it's not particularly relevant to today.

Aubrey Moore said...

Actually, it is relevant to knowing the person that Romney was to become. I am older than Romney and I remember my high school days very well and the people who picked on those who were really different.

The excuse machine for Romney is running at full speed to create the person that is needed at this time in Mr. Romney's life and this political season. I think that it is only through these small bits of information that we can ever see the real Romney because he has used his money to hide that man from the public. I am not saying that he is still that immature child, but this is a window into his soul and we get so few with the man.

picklemom said...

OMG - the only thing meaner than a teenage boy is teenage girls. This is an article grasping.... What he did was wrong - but look at all the good he has done since. I'm sure he wet his diapers at age 1 - perhaps we should publish accounts of that as well.

David Brock said...

I voted for this man in the Florida primary. I'm a registered Republican. I can not support Mitt Romney given these recently discovered "flaws".

Wiley Coyote said...

Obama was a whacked out druggie and drunkard who bullied others and ate dog meat.

What does that mean?

Jim said...

We're not sure what to do with this tidbit so we'll just spread it around. . . .attaboy, Peter!

HDLadee said...

So let's compare Mitt's little High school prank to those of Obama....Oh wait we can't because NOBODY remembers HIS stuff....curious!

CharlotteIn2012 said...

Thank goodness I did not miss this when I got up this morning.

When I posted to it two days ago, I forgot a couple of other points I wanted to make.

Thanks Observer Editors.

HDLadee said...

Let's see, Romney Plays High School Pranks while Obama Does Drugs & has issues with his sexuality ~

Which would you really prefer?


CharlotteIn2012 said...

I bought a Chevrolet Vega when I was young.

I wanted everyone to know about it before the Observer Editors posted it about me.

It was assumed to be a good, reliable, gas saving vehicle, but ,we all know how it turned out jut different.

I want to apologize to that little green Vega, The Chevy's who made it, and let everyone know I am a better person now who would have bought a Saturn, if they were still in business, just to show how much I have changed.

CharlotteIn2012 said...

@hdladee How can you say that about Obama, none of that has ever been in the Charlotte Observer.

You must be getting news from an unreliable source, which is biased against Obama.

Stick with our only local daily newspaper, The Charlotte Observer, and you can never go wrong.

Skippy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Skippy said...

We can't even get a copy of Obama's transcripts and in a very well timed hit piece by the liberals at the Washington Compost, Romeny is a homophob two days after NC overwhelmingly voted for the definition of marriage. This is nothing but a contrived attack coordinated between the White House and the dying liberal print media.

We know nothing about Obama's past, period.
No one has ever interviewed any of HS friends.
He will not release any transcripts.
Never mentioned was his communist father, his communist mother, his communist mentor.
William Ayers
Bernadette Dorhn
Rev Wright
His social security oddity
His birth certificate done on adobe reader which was not around in the 60's
Larry Sinclair
Cocaine use
Dog eating Kenyan

Ayers wrote Dreams of My Father. Ayers is a TERRORISTS. Obama wouldn't even be allowed to serve in the Secret Service because of his past affiliations with this unrepentant terrorists.

This upcoming election is as much about our lying and one sided media as it is about the colossal failure that is in White House.

Did any see the "jobs" report yesterday? Of course not. Do you wonder why or are you going to be distracted by liberal media lap dogs?

dave said...

apparently it means nothing as the story is falling apart ala MSNBC or Dan Rather.... unbelievably irresponsible by the Observer to allow this blog without proper vetting.

BiBr said...

I am usually one of the first to point out the liberal bias of the CO writers, but I have to give Peter credit for writing a fair and balanced article regarding the stupid things teens sometimes do - and whether it really matters in terms of the presidency (at least that's what I got out of the article)...

picklemom said...

Please do not insult my intelligence or waste my time with articles like this. If this is the best you have to paint the man as a homophobe - I think I can live with him as president. If you were to bring such a story, but timed in his grown up life, then I would feel the need to hear it.

Randle P McMurphy said...

I have to withdraw portions of my previous comment. YOU made the direct connection - saying that "recounts how Romney tormented a private high school classmate for his "presumed homosexuality."

That is not what the article says. You have taken a broad statement about how Mr. Lauber was purportedly viewed by his peers and claimed that was Romney's motivation for the incident.

Shame on you. You have either glossed over an article and used it because it suits your agenda, or worse yet, intentionally misled your readers as to the content of the article.

By the way, in discussing the original article with my son (Patrick R McMurphy, who disagrees with me about most things, but at least he thinks), he mentioned something he'd recently read about "How to tell if an article is BS". I googled it, and the link follows ( The language is, shall we say, coarse (plenty of 4 letter words that are not spelled LOVE), but I believe the author must have access to the Observers style manual.... most of his comments are applicable to this site/paper.
Best regards, RP

Jon said...

I'm with Mr. St. Onge, but I've ;earned a lot from these posts--e.g., I didn't know wealthy guys were predisposed to bullying or that W was an exemplar of that. That hasn't been my experience with bullies, who covered the economic spectrum. The one who threatened to knife me was from Harlem, and others were middle class. That gives us a view, too, into the souls of Hitler, Stalin and Mao.

Anonymous said...

looking at Peter's profile picture, I wager he got picked on alot

chupacabra said...

the comments on here are just fascinating

wow the GOP really is composed of amazingly mean and heartless people

I only wish that surprised me.

Skippy said...

Bill Clinton was a rapist, what did that mean to you phony war on women liberals? Not much apprently.

Scott Durkee said...

Although it is not true that all conservatives are stupid people, it is true that most stupid people are conservative.
John Stuart Mill