Romney Denies Targeting Classmates for Being Gay

By: Kasie Hunt, AP
By: Kasie Hunt, AP

Washington, D.C. (AP) - Mitt Romney apologized Thursday for "stupid" high school pranks that may have gone too far and moved quickly to stamp out any notion that he bullied schoolmates because they were gay. His swift response reflected the Republican presidential candidate's recognition that his record on gay rights is under heightened scrutiny following President Barack Obama's embrace of gay marriage.

One day after gay rights moved to the center of the presidential race with Obama's announcement on same-sex marriage, a Washington Post report about Romney's high school escapades nearly 50 years ago added a personal dimension to Democrats' claim that he's out of step on the sensitive topic.

The newspaper reported that in one case, Romney and several schoolmates held down classmate John Lauber and cut off his bleached blond hair after seeking him out in his dorm room at their boarding school in the wealthy Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills, Mich. The Post said Lauber was "perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality" and that he screamed for help as Romney held him down. The paper recounted another incident in which Romney shouted "atta girl" to a different student at the all-boys' school who, years later, came out as gay.

"I participated in a lot of hijinks and pranks during high school and some may have gone too far. And for that I apologize," Romney told Fox News' Brian Kilmeade during a hastily arranged radio interview. Romney said he didn't remember the Lauber incident from long ago, but didn't dispute that it happened. He stressed that he didn't know either student was gay.

The Republican presidential candidate had begun the day by treading softly on Obama's historic embrace of same-sex marriage, which seems likely to fire up liberal and conservative activists alike. He quietly restated his opposition to legalizing such marriages, but his campaign turned its full attention to energy, the economy and other issues.

Then the boarding school story was posted online and Romney moved quickly to counter any suggestion he had targeted students because they were gay.

"That was the furthest thing from our minds back in the 1960s, so that was not the case," he said, adding that the students involved "didn't come out of the closet until years later."

According to the Post account, Romney was upset about how Lauber wore his bleach-blond hair hanging into his eyes.

"He can't look like that. That's wrong. Just look at him!" Romney told Matthew Friedemann, a close Romney friend and one of five classmates who recalled the incident for The Post. A few days later, Romney led a group of boys out of his dorm room at Cranbrook School and into Lauber's, where the group tackled him and held him down. Romney cut his hair with scissors as a teary-eyed Lauber screamed for help.

"If there was anything I said that was offensive to someone, I certainly am sorry about that," he said, adding that "there was no harm intended." Romney's campaign has previously highlighted the candidate's reputation as a high school prankster in an attempt to humanize him.

In a second interview Thursday, Romney laid out what he said was his long-held position on gay rights: While opposed to gay marriage, he said states should be allowed to grant various domestic partnership rights to same-sex couples, including the right to adopt children.

"States could have their own decisions with regards to the domestic partnership rights," Romney told Fox News. "But my preference would be to have a national standard for marriage, and that marriage would be defined as being between a man and a woman."

He said he would go as far as supporting gay couples who want to adopt children, saying: "If two people of the same gender want to live together, want to have a loving relationship and even want to adopt a child - in my state, individuals of the same sex are able to adopt children - in my view, that's something which people have the right to do."

The GOP candidate defended some gay rights when he ran for governor of Massachusetts but was a leading voice against gay marriage when courts made it legal in the state.

"We would have never gotten as far as we did without Gov. Romney's very strong support," said Kris Mineau, the president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, the group that spearheaded the fight for the state constitutional amendment.

Still, when Romney ran for Senate in 1994, he argued that he would be a better advocate for gay rights' issues than Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy because he would make gay issues mainstream. "I think the gay community needs more support from the Republican Party and I would be a voice in the Republican Party to foster anti-discrimination efforts," he said in a 1994 interview.

Obama on Wednesday became the first president in history to support gay marriage, and Romney was careful to use empathic language as he responded to that decision.

"This is a very tender and sensitive topic as are many social issues, but I have the same views I've had since running for office," Romney said, a rhetorical contrast with some of his sharper responses on issues like immigration.

Romney's advisers signaled they planned to campaign on the issue in November's election, but acknowledged they would have to tread carefully. "I think it's important to be respectful in how we talk about our differences, but the fact is that's a significant difference in November," Ed Gillespie, a senior Romney adviser, said Thursday on MSNBC.

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  • by Enough Is Enough on May 11, 2012 at 04:15 PM
    Romney get's villified for this but Obama gets a free ride for hanging with unrepentant domestic terrorists who killed American citizens.
  • by no mens rea on May 11, 2012 at 02:52 PM
    The WP story is flawed in that it applies the standards of 2012 with an incident that took place in 1965. The average age in the US is 35.3 years of age. Most people, probably 65-70%, were not even alive in 1965, therefore they can have no idea of the atmosphere/mood of the nation at that time. The Beatles were still brand new, the hippy movement was in it's infancy, the Summer of Love was still in the future. Opposition to the Viet Nam War was just beginning to ratchet up on a national scale. Look through any 1964-65 high school yearbook and you'll see mostly crew cuts, flat tops, and wavy Elvis/Ricky Nelson type haircuts,with a few daring souls combing their hair down over their foreheads, ala the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. In most high schools, teachers had not yet begun sending students to the dean's office, who in turn sent them to the barber shop, with instuctions to return only when they looked like a man. This began in earnest a year or two later. Cops openly harassed and verbally abused any teenage male who had hair that covered their ears or collar. Local traffic judges, mayors, and jps, often gave teenage boys a choice, get a haircut ,or pay the traffic ticket. It was a rare day when the male, who looked a little different wasn't heckled, threatened, or abused in some way. I know, because I was on the receiving end of much of it. I'm not saying what Romney did was right, I'm just saying it was a different time, and we as individuals, as well as we as a nation, have grown up and matured, at least a little.
    • reply
      by Willard on May 11, 2012 at 03:39 PM in reply to no mens rea
      Can you just print the CliffsNotes?
      • reply
        by no mens rea on May 11, 2012 at 06:23 PM in reply to Willard
        Yes,--go--get--your--color--crayons. I'll--use--them--to--explain--it--to--you.
        • reply
          by Willard on May 12, 2012 at 08:00 AM in reply to no mens rea
          So you have diarrhea of the mouth in color as well as black and white, rea?
  • by Miss Swan on May 11, 2012 at 10:18 AM
    Atta girl, Mitt! Oooh! Cut off boy hair! He look-a like-a man now. Oooh, so manly.
  • by anon on May 11, 2012 at 09:37 AM
    Can the Washington Post do a story about Pres. Obama and his friends who did marijuana "I inhaled frequently, that was the point" and Pres. Obama's use of cocaine. I guess doing drugs is cool to the media.
  • by smh on May 11, 2012 at 08:00 AM
    Come on people this happened 50 years ago!!! The man was just a kid then. You can't judge someone for what they did as a kid. Think about some of the things you did in high school that you wouldn't dare think about doing now. We all have a list. And atleast we know that he went to school in the U.S. Can someone tell me what school Obama went to? If you can't find one in the U.S try looking up the schools in Iraq, you might find his senior pictures there. Lol!!!
  • by smh on May 11, 2012 at 08:00 AM
    Come on people this happened 50 years ago!!! The man was just a kid then. You can't judge someone for what they did as a kid. Think about some of the things you did in high school that you wouldn't dare think about doing now. We all have a list. And atleast we know that he went to school in the U.S. Can someone tell me what school Obama went to? If you can't find one in the U.S try looking up the schools in Iraq, you might find his senior pictures there. Lol!!!
  • by SNA on May 11, 2012 at 07:39 AM
    He and his friends "targeted" a guy who was intentionally a non-conformist, and (wait for it), they CUT OFF SOME OF HIS HAIR! OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD!!!! If we're going to hold public figures responsible for what they did in high school, then consider Florida is run by nothing but a bunch of potheads. This is indeed a stupid story to run with, an attempt by the main stream media to once again disparage anyone other than a Democrat.
  • by Redd Foxx on May 11, 2012 at 07:32 AM
    If he called himself stupid, I think he's telling the truth.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on May 11, 2012 at 07:40 AM in reply to Redd Foxx
      Lets talk about Hussein's drug use. Let's interview his coke and pot buddies.
      • reply
        by gata on May 11, 2012 at 08:51 AM in reply to
        You can interview W and his drug buddies at the same time.
        • reply
          by Anonymous on May 11, 2012 at 11:29 AM in reply to gata
          You can interview Clinton, and his drug buddies too!
  • by dog Location: gone on May 11, 2012 at 06:41 AM
    oboma is desperate going back 40 years with made up storys this is getting rediculous. WE ARE NOT STUPID.
  • by Anonymous on May 11, 2012 at 06:24 AM
    The main stream media can dig up this story from 50 years ago but they cant find one person who even knows Obama from his younger years? No way there in the tank for Obama. lol Righhht.
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