Why I Don’t Care About Mitt Romney’s Cruel Prep School Bullying Incident
12:15 pm, May 10th | by Laura Donovan
In the junior high, a popular male classmate named Timmy stuck a “Kick Me Hard” sign on my back during biology class. We’d been at each other’s throats for months, so when I leaped up from my seat to write something on the chalk board and the substitute teacher warned, “You have a sheet of paper on the back of your sweater,” I knew before even peeling the note off my shirt that Timmy had chosen me to be the school’s latest victim of public humiliation. The classroom roared with laughter and some students pointed in my direction. The scene could have been plucked out of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” it was so cringe-worthy, and I remember believing that I’d never forgive Timmy for belittling me in front of a crowd once again.
But as a young adult more than a decade later, I recognize that the guy who orchestrated the mean prank was just a child when he formulated the idea. The same goes for presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who reportedly terrorized a long-haired prep school classmate during their teenage days at Cranbook.
A day following President Barack Obama’s announcement of his increased support for gay couples, the Washington Post published a piece on Romney’s high school prankster tendencies, which we’ve heard about in some form before. Upon returning from spring break, high school senior Romney was puzzled by the grooming preferences of John Lauber, a quiet new junior who “was perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality.” While most Cranbook kids walked around in ties and flashed briefcases, different duck Lauber had “bleached-blond hair that draped over one eye.” And buttoned-up Romney, the son of Michigan Gov. George Romney, was not a fan of this unconventional style.
“He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!” teenager Romney told close friend, Matthew Friedemann. Within days, Romney took matters into his own hands — literally — and rounded up some friends to help him hold Lauber down in order to cut his hair. Lauber teared up and screamed for help as Romney clipped away, and the act of bullying still bothers Romney’s pals today even though his campaign spokesperson said the former Massachusetts governor has no memory of the incident at all. According to WaPo, one of Romney’s accomplices ran into Lauber in the mid-1990s and the friend apologized. Lauber, who reportedly passed away in 2004, said the memory was “horrible.” Clearly, he hadn’t forgotten about it and never would, but Romney can’t recall this encounter.
“Anyone who knows Mitt Romney knows that he doesn’t have a mean-spirited bone in his body,” Andrea Saul said in a statement to WaPo. “The stories of fifty years ago seem exaggerated and off base and Governor Romney has no memory of participating in these incidents.”
The way Romney — or any politician, for that manner — behaved as a teenager should be of no concern to us now. This has happened before, as critics have knocked on George W. Bush’s college frat boy past and ways, but you can’t fully make a character evaluation on a young person. What matters at this point is Romney’s decisions as a grown-up, and potential voters would be wise to keep his flip-flop history in mind as well. BuzzFeed‘s Andrew Kaczynski put it best with his response tweet to the story, “As a boneheaded kid c vwho [sic] did lots of stupid things as a child, it’s hard for me to see how this is relevant.”