Romney Says He’s Not a Bully, Just Likes Pranks And Stuff

Just one day after Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage, The Washington Post published accounts that US presidential candidate Mitt Romney bullied fellow classmates during his high school years.


Romney’s alma mater, the Cranbrook School, was an all-male straight-laced institution where his classmate, John Lauber, was “perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality” because of his long bleached hair. Matthew Friedemann, a former friend and classmate of Romney’s, recalled that Romney was incensed about Lauber’s appearance. “He can’t look like that,” Friedemann recalled Romney saying. “That’s wrong. Just look at him!”

Five separate individuals recalled an incident in which Romney and his friends assaulted Lauber. They pinned Lauber to the ground and restrained him while they forcibly cut off his hair.


“It was a hack job,” recalled Phillip Maxwell, a childhood friend of Romney and a witness. “It was vicious.” Thomas Buford, a retired prosecutor who helped restrain Lauber at the time, recalled that “it happened very quickly, and to this day it troubles me.” Additionally, Romney was cited as having yelled “atta girl” in class to another male student who later came out as gay.

In response, Romney turned to everyone’s favorite Republican mouthpiece, Fox News, to explain himself in a radio interview with Brian Kilmeade. “I participated in a lot of hijinks and pranks during high school and some may have gone too far,” Romney said, “And for that I apologize.” Romney then appeared on Your World With Neil Cavuto, again on Fox News, to reiterate his pseudo-apology.

I had no idea what that individual’s sexual orientation might be. Going back to the 1960s that wasn’t something that we all discussed or considered. So that’s simply just not accurate. I don’t recall the incident myself, but I’ve seen the reports and I’m not going to argue with that. There’s no question but that I did some stupid things when I was in high school and obviously if I hurt anyone by virtue of that I would be very sorry for it and apologize for it.

Lauber died in 2004, but his family has spoken out against the Post article. They claim the story is factually incorrect. While I can only speculate about which facts the family is referring to, it’s quite possible that their late son was not gay and they resent his being portrayed as such. Or they could just be Republicans.

While I’m suspicious that Romney has forgotten an event his friends and classmates seem to remember so vividly, I understand why he might not want to be judged by high school actions that took place over 40 years ago. Unfortunately for him, that’s what we do in politics. Did Clinton smoke pot in 1969? Did Bush get a DUI in 1976? Politicians, particularly presidential candidates, are responsible for explaining all sorts of personal crap from their pasts. Sometimes, as in Bush’s case, the questions are really about whether a particular aspect of a politician’s personal life could negatively affect their ability to hold office. Others, like Romney’s case, are really a test to see how the candidate will handle themselves. Romney didn’t come out great on this one.

Let’s get real, we’re having a gay bullying crisis and an anti-bullying moment. If Romney had an ounce of sense, or for that matter genuine remorse, he might have used this as an opportunity to show his softer side and do some real good towards bullying prevention in the US. Romney would have been wise to say, “I’m mortified by my actions, and it is now clear to me that even good kids can get swept up in hurtful behavior. When I am president I will enact laws to ensure that our children are safe in schools.” Unfortunately, that would mean going against the Republican party by coming out in favor of actually legislating something other than law after law against gay marriage.

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Lizz is a consumer, lover and writer of all things pop culture and the Fashion/Style Editor at She is also full time medical student at Brown University in Providence, RI. You can find her on the twitter, the tumblr or even on the instagram.

Lizz has written 261 articles for us.


  1. So…i tend to stay away from things like the fox news website, but since yuo linked to it, and I like you, I wanted to hear what this family was saying.

    Instead, a noticed a video titled: “How Influential are women voters?”


    ps – riese if you happen upon this comment, plz don’t watch that video^ if you want to have a happy weekend.

    Srsly, how does fox news exist?

    Anyway, for Romney to say he doesn’t “recall” the incident is insane, or a sign of early dementia which i hope further pushes him away from the race.

  2. I’m glad for the last two paragraphs, because throughout the article I was thinking “how can we judge him on how he acted when he was a teenager” but you made an excellent point about how he should have handled the story today.

  3. I’m fine with judging him on shit he did as a teenager, because he doesn’t appear to have evolved past the stupid opinions and actions of his youth. He hated gay people then and he hates gay people now, he’s just moved onto bigger and better ways of hurting gays and gay youths than hacking off their hair.

    • yeah i agree — i admit that in addition to being bullied a lot as a kid, there were times when i probably took teasing too far or could’ve stopped my friends from doing something shitty to somebody else. BUT um, actually physically tackling another human being and chopping off his gay-seeming hair? no. i do think it takes a certain kind of person to do that, at any age.

      • Also… Theirs childhood cruelty: 14 years old and under, and then there’s being 16 or 17 you know?

        I wonder how old mittens was when this occurred. I mean, I don’t thinkwe should hold it against him but he isn’t show remorse? He could have related it to today’s issues. He could have said, I understand bullies because I was one and this is how I will deal with the suicide epidemic.

  4. I actually think this IS an example where a candidate’s past personal life might reflect negatively on his ability to hold office. Before he was consciously aware of homophobia or sexual orientation and all that that implied politically and socially, he was the kind of person who made fun of people from being different. It almost makes it MORE meaningful because he did it before he really understood what he was doing or was aware of its political implications — not wanting people to be different and not being sensitive to the feelings/dignity of people who are different from you speaks pretty clearly to the content of his character AND his politics.

    Also, I know I’m going to get a lot of flack for this, but while I agree that we shouldn’t blame people for moments of youthful irresponsibility and the like, this is a moment of youthful cruelty, which I think is perfectly fair to take into account. I feel like if I met an adult and later found out he violently bullied gay-seeming teens in high school, I would judge them too, and I don’t think that’s all that unfair… Especially since his apology doesn’t seem very regretful. There are plenty of people who could run for president of the US who DIDN’T assault their classmates in high school.

    • while I agree that we shouldn’t blame people for moments of youthful irresponsibility and the like, this is a moment of youthful cruelty, which I think is perfectly fair to take into account.

      i agree (as i said above), i think this situation reflects pretty solidly on who he is as a person.

  5. Please find someone to copyedit your articles…or at least use spellcheck before posting them.

    1.” Romeny” should be “Romney”
    2. “incenses” should be “incensed”
    3. “anti-bulling” should be “antibullying”

  6. His past would be one thing if he wasn’t also working to create anti-queer legislation- like, if President Obama came out and said he had done this, it would make me sad but it wouldn’t make me not vote for him. I could care less about what a politician does in his personal life, I just care about his policy. But in this situation, it seems like his actions are just another indication that his policy will suck for us if he gets elected.

  7. Somehow I wasn’t surprised to learn that a guy who tied his dog to the top of his car for a road trip also bullied classmates. And physically assaulting someone is not a prank or hijink.

    From what I saw about what Lauber’s family said, they admitted that he would never have mentioned it to them and they weren’t there for it, so they actually don’t know if it happened or not.

    • He tied his dog to the top of his car? Maybe I’ve managed to miss this fact (probably partly because I’m not a US local and thus haven’t experienced the wealth of US politics driven media that I’m sure many of you are exposed to) BUT wow. That’s terrible!

      • He actually stopped and realized that the dog had shit itself in fear, at which point he sprayed down the dog and put it back on top for the rest of the trip.

        • Word of the day! Goal: to surreptitiously use this in conversation at work tomorrow
          (rom-ney) v.
          1. To defecate in terror.

  8. Ah yes, I really like the last two paragraphs. This situation, though in the past and argued that it isn’t relevant now, shows more about the person that Romney is rather than just focusing on his policies.

    Side note, did anyone hear about his graduation speech at Liberty University today? Apparently it was relevant to the graduating class that he state he believes marriage is between one man and one woman. To which he received a standing ovation from the crowd of 30,000. Ugh.

    • I kinda find the whole giving the graduation speech at Liberty amusing because they have a theology class that describes Mormonism as a cult.

    • Who the FUCK wants to hear about marriage in their commencement speech?? How is that inspiring?

      “Marriage equals one woman and one man? I am now inspired to join the Peace Corps, always recycle, and thereby fix all evils in the world by age 25!”*

      *That’s how commencement speeches are supposed to make you feel, right? I was mostly dozing during mine, so I’m not sure.

      • This with tears!

        I just graduated this past Friday and I was day-dreaming about scissoring (not the craft kind) and nutella. In fact I don’t even remember being totally “present of mind*” during the damn thing, I was just over it!

        *I had a couple of margarita’s soooooo yeaaaaah.

      • Given who the target audience is at Liberty University, I wouldn’t be surprised if many of the attendees have the notion of: “Okay, now that my daughter has gotten a college degree, next step for her to be successful is to marry a nice, educated Christian boy! End. Of. Life.”

  9. Who saw Maddow last night? She was harping on the fact that when Romney was asked about this story the other day, he laughed. LAUGHED. HE STILL FEELS NO REMORSE.

    • Yeah, I saw Maddow last night. I’m terrified that this is the man that might be our president.

    • I loved when she pointed out that he said it wasn’t because the guy was gay and also claimed that he totally didn’t remember the incident and if he didn’t remember how how could he know it was or wasn’t because the kid was gay.

  10. I used to stay at Cranbrook a lot and visit a lot because my best friend went there, and I think I visited it once to consider going there — it was strange, reading the article about him there because I could see it in my mind. Anyhow he sounds like an asshole — always has been, always will be, in my opinion.

    • My grandpa went to Cranbrook, as did a few of my UMich friends. I’ve had a hard time suppressing a little twinge of Michigan pride for Romney, despite his general assholery and even despite his assholery regarding his relationship with the Michigan auto industry.

      • Really? I’ve completely disavowed Romney from my mental list of Awesome Michigan Natives. Also disavowed: Madonna, Kid Rock, Michael Moore.

  11. the idea that people didn’t know about gay people and weren’t homophobic in the 1960s, and that policing another boy’s performance of masculinity in the name of straightness wasn’t exactly what those “high jinks” were all about, is the joke. that is the fakest part of his non-apology. i mean, does he think no-one else lived through that historical period?

  12. Using Romney’s insane troll logic: huh, his face looks like wax. I wonder if he can stick him in a fire and watch it melt off?

    (Note: I do not advocate sticking Romney’s head in a fire because, unlike him at my age, I am not a sadist who punishes those different from me.)

    • I’m from Massachusetts, and I once saw him at the airport at like six am and he looked PERFECT, every hair was in place, his face was unnaturally glowing and shiny, and there was nary a wrinkle on him. It was disconcerting, he really did look like a wax sculpture of himself.

  13. “I don’t recall the incident myself..” Tell me you don’t remember some verbal teasing, I’ll buy it. Tell me you don’t remember tripping some dude in the hall and I might allow for that gap in memory. Tell me you can’t recall knocking someones books from their hands, I can even accept that. But you and your friends forcibly pinning a classmate to the ground, physically restraing him while you cut off his hair? Yeah..You’re gonna remember that. Everybody involved, and everbody who witnessed it and stood by doing nothing is going to remember. You just didn’t think anyone would care.

    • This. I just can’t believe he said he forgot… even if he had! COULD he be so fucking heartless that this incident didn’t weigh on his soul at all back then? It’s gross that “forgetting” was actually the best answer from the POV of conservatives. They want a rich robot bully with no conscience who responds to inquiries of wrongdoing with “LOL I forget!”

  14. I hate bullies. Few things in this world can rouse my ire the way a bully can. I’ve been engaging them pretty much since Tommy Price took away Steven Klein’s Big Wheel and wouldn’t give it back. I crossed the street, ripped the Big Wheel from Tommys grip and proceeded to beat him with it. Now, as an adult, I still engage them but my interactions with bullies are more nuanced. Having said that, I really want to beat Mitt Romney with a Big Wheel right now.

  15. I am actually really worried by the sentiment that we shouldn’t judge him by his actions because he was a teenager. Most teenagers do mean things, stupid things, illegal things. Very few of them commit hate crimes.

  16. Who refers to someone so personal as a classmate he did not harbor any resentment for and definitely did not bully as “that individual”

    What kind of life are you living where you can’t even mask your complete lack of empathy while playing politics
    And with that Sorry If You Felt That Way ass apology. Get outta here

  17. He’s so pathetic. Let me tell you something about Mitt Romney. We were best friends in middle school. I know, right? It’s so embarrassing. I don’t even…whatever. So then, in eighth grade, I started growing out my hair and it was totally gorgeous but Mitt was like, weirdly hateful of it. So then, for my birthday party, which was an all-guys pool party, I was like, “Mitt, I can’t invite you, because I think you’re homophobic.” There were gonna be guys there with long hair. I mean, right? He was HOMOPHOBIC. So then he called his friends over and held me down and cut off my hair, it was so [horrifying and vicious and he hasn’t done anything to actually stop it from happening again]. And now I guess he’s campaigning.

    • *is speechless to the beauty and placement of a perfect reference in the perfect context and the perfect everything*

      I can’t even, this is just amaze…but, but I will say:

      FOUR FOR YOU OFIR! YOU GO OFIR, and none for Mitt Romney.

  18. I dunno.. I agree with Lizz in that he should have handled the situation better when the story came out (no pun intended) and I also agree that this was years ago and we really do dig into candidates past to get a good story. But let’s be honest, we all did stupid shit in high school. And a lot of people make fun of Mitt for being Mormon, which I know doesn’t really compare… but still. I don’t support Mitt as a candidate but I also don’t support double standards.

  19. I couldn’t understand how to express my sexuality/self/femininity when I was younger and took that confusion out on others by making fun of mostly very feminine men, which i deeply loathe myself for, but then again I’m talking like 9-12 yrs old not even a teenager. My dad wouldn’t let me take dance classes or really anything *girly* because he saw it as a waste of time in the long run and thought Karate and baseball were better for life skills. Gymnastics was the only saving grace I was able to participate in.

    ANYWAY, I had a lot of misplaced and screwed up feelings about who I was and I responded in an immature way by poking fun (including teasing my gay uncle). I just didn’t know what else to do I guess *sigh*.

    My point is, I can understand foolish behavior as a kid, though I’m a little less forgiving of someone doing something like he did closer to an “adult” age.

    Also – Re the hair thing:

    If someone held me down and cut my hair, at any age (even now) it would seriously mess me up. I don’t see that as being any different for guys either, as I have known many boys/men with long hair that cherished it as much as I love my hair when it’s long.

    I remember seeing a lifetime movie a long time ago (I think it had Tiffany Theissen in it).

    [trigger warning – rape]

    It was about a guy that would rape girls and cut their hair as he was raping them. *shudders* That’s just….I don’t even know what. Who does these kinds of things?

  20. By the way thanks Lizz for your words on this, I was hoping autostraddle would cover it. I’ve been in deep thought about the whole situation since I read this last night. It really is deep right? I mean…this isn’t just *smoked pot in college* *was an alcoholic* or *possibly wasn’t born in the US* type thing…it’s a whole different level of wtf.

  21. Just to add to the mix, let me tell you a little personal story about our friend Mitt. I am exactly the same age as Romney’s youngest son, Craig. I happen to know this because my mom and Ann Romney were, randomly, roommates in the hospital after the respective births of Craig and me. (Also, oddly enough, the day the Pope was shot – May 13, 1981.) Anyhow, my mom and dad already knew of Mitt Romney – he was the Bishop of the local LDS church, and friends of my parents’ were members of that church.

    So here’s the story: Ann Romney is sitting in her hospital bed, having just given birth to her fifth child. Mitt Romney walks in, as Ann is nursing and cleaning baby Craig. She holds out a washcloth to her husband and asks him to get it wet for her. He says “no” and proceeds to just sit there while she takes care of the baby.

    This is a small story, but it stuck with my parents because it was such a telling image of him as a human being. I think all these stories add up to our understanding of him as a human, and his regard for other humans.

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