Day After Obama Marriage Equality Move, Story Emerges of Teenage Romney Tackling, Cutting Hair of Boy He Believed to Be Gay
Whether this timing was intentional or not, it's hard not to be struck by how starkly this story from today's Washington Post contrasts with Obama's declaration of support for marriage equality yesterday:
Mitt Romney returned from a three-week spring break in 1965 to resume his studies as a high school senior at the prestigious Cranbrook School. Back on the handsome campus, studded with Tudor brick buildings and manicured fields, he spotted something he thought did not belong at a school where the boys wore ties and carried briefcases. 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.
The Postreports that five former classmates of Romney's recalled the incident independently. The former classmates, who span the political spectrum, called the act "vicious," "senseless," and "idiotic," among other things.
One of the classmates, David Seed, ran into Lauber three decades later at an airport and apologized for not doing more to help him that day in 1965. Lauber, who has since died, reportedly told Seed, "It was horrible....It’s something I have thought about a lot since then."
Predictably, the Romney camp is in denial mode. A spokesperson called the story "exaggerated and off base," while some of his supporters are saying the story is irrelevant. But I have to agree with feminist writer Jessica Valenti, who said on Twitter this AM, "To those saying Romney's HS incident isn't relevant: He wasn't 10 he was 18. & given his policies I'd say gaybashing is pretty damn relevant."
For his part, Romney says he doesn't remember the incident. As journalist and author Jeff Sharlet tweeted this morning, that might should disturb us: "Far more disturbing to me than Romney's teenage viciousness is his insistence it didn't happen. Scariest kind of bully."