BLOOMFIELD HILLS, MI – During a year in which the bullying and suicides of gay teens and the historic announcement of President Barack Obama’s endorsement of marriage equality dominate much of the political discussion, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney finds himself on the fuzzy end of the lollipop with charges that, as a high school student, he bullied and terrorized a fellow student who later came out of the closet.
Romney, the former Governor of Massachusetts and the presumptive GOP nominee, issued a rather vague apology last week during an interview with Fox News Channel host Neil Cavuto. “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,” Romney hypothesized.
The incident in question took place in 1965, when Romney, then a senior at Cranbrook School, a Michigan preparatory academy for the children of the privileged (at that time, Romney’s father, George, was Governor of Michigan), returned to school after a break from classes and learned that a classmate, John Lauber, had dyed his hair blond. Romney, a popular student, was manager of the school’s ice hockey team and a member of the academy pep squad. He also belonged to numerous clubs and organizations that would serve his political and business careers well in the coming decades.
Lauber, who died of liver cancer in 2004, was described by his sister, Christine, as an “unusual person” who was generally believed to be homosexual by classmates (later in his life, Lauber admitted his sexual orientation). When Romney’s clique learned of the teen’s dye job, they hunted him down like “a pack of dogs,” as described by Phillip Maxwell, a former classmate of Romney and Lauber’s who participated in the “prank” against the terrified gay teenager.
Maxwell, who described what he, Romney, and the others did that night as an “assault and battery,” held down Lauber’s arm and leg while the future Massachusetts governor wielded a pair of cutting shears and hacked off the pinned-down youth’s hair. As to Romney’s on air apology and claims that he doesn’t recall specifics about the hazing of Lauber—and the candidate’s story that he had no idea that “the fellow was homosexual” while they were students—their former classmate Maxwell offers skepticism. “I would think this would be seared in his memory,” he told the Washington Post. “For the other people involved, nobody has forgotten.”