A story in yesterday's Washington Post described a bullying attack Romney reportedly led in 1965 at Cranbrook, the elite boys prep school he attended in Michigan. Classmates of varying political affiliations, speaking on the record, detailed other instances of harassment at the school by Romney.
Character is revealed not just by how a person lives his life but also by how he addresses youthful transgressions. Romney's campaign spokesperson, Andrea Saul, said in a statement, "The stories of fifty years ago seem exaggerated and off base and Governor Romney has no memory of participating in these incidents.”
According to the Post article, when Romney returned to Cranbrook from spring break in 1965, he noticed that a soft-spoken new student named John Lauber had bleached his hair blond and had it draped over one eye. A close friend of Romney's at the time, Matthew Friedemann, recalled Romney, then 18, objecting, “He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!”
A few days later, according to Friedemann, he saw Romney lead a posse that tackled Lauber and pinned him to the floor of a dorm room, where Romney cut his hair with scissors while Lauber, who was crying, screamed in vain for help.
Four other former Cranbrook students, all but one who were willing to be identified in the Post story, independently described the attack similarly to Friedemann. And they expressed remorse.
“It happened very quickly, and to this day it troubles me,” Thomas Buford, a retired prosecutor, told the Post. Buford, the wrestling champion at Cranbrook, helped Romney pin Lauber to the floor. He said he later apologized to Lauber, who was “terrified” during the attack. “What a senseless, stupid, idiotic thing to do.”
Romney's father, George, was governor of Michigan then. No one was disciplined for the assault. Lauber was later kicked out of the school for smoking a cigarette.
David Seed, a retired principal who said he witnessed the attack, told the Post he bumped into Lauber at a bar at O'Hare in the mid-1990s. Seed said he apologized to Lauber for not coming to his aid. He said Lauber told him the episode had been "horrible," and that he'd thought about it often since. Lauber died in 2004.
Romney hasn't thought about it often since, to hear him tell it. On Fox News Radio yesterday morning, host Brian Kilmeade asked him how he'd characterize the Post story. "Oh, I'm not gonna be too concerned about their piece," he said. "Back in high school I did some dumb things, and if anybody was hurt by that, or offended, why obviously I apologize." Kilmeade asked Romney if he recalled the incident with Lauber; Romney, laughing, said he didn't.
In the Post story, Phillip Maxwell, a Michigan lawyer, called the attack on Lauber "vicious." In a New York Times story this morning, he acknowledged participating in the attack. “It started out as ribbing, sort of a pointed ribbing about his hair, but it very quickly became an assault, and he was taken down to the ground, pinned," Maxwell said. "It was like a pack of dogs.”
He doubted Romney's assertion that he didn't remember the attack: "I would think this would be seared in his memory. Certainly for the other people that were involved, nobody has forgotten.”