Mitt Romney, High School Gay Bashing Bully

The Washington Post tells a disturbing tale corroborated by no less than 5 independent witnesses:

John Lauber, a soft-spoken new student one year behind Romney, was perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality. Now he was walking around the all-boys school with bleached-blond hair that draped over one eye, and Romney wasn’t having it.

“He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!” an incensed Romney told Matthew Friedemann, his close friend in the Stevens Hall dorm, according to Friedemann’s recollection. Mitt, the teenaged son of Michigan Gov. George Romney, kept complaining about Lauber’s look, Friedemann recalled.

A few days later, Friedemann entered Stevens Hall off the school’s collegiate quad to find Romney marching out of his own room ahead of a prep school posse shouting about their plan to cut Lauber’s hair. Friedemann followed them to a nearby room where they came upon Lauber, tackled him and pinned him to the ground. As Lauber, his eyes filling with tears, screamed for help, Romney repeatedly clipped his hair with a pair of scissors.

The incident was recalled similarly by five students, who gave their accounts independently of one another. Four of them — Friedemann, now a dentist; Phillip Maxwell, a lawyer; Thomas Buford, a retired prosecutor; and David Seed, a retired principal — spoke on the record. Another former student who witnessed the incident asked not to be named.

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Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    Did Romney ever admit to the incident, or say anything to the effect that he regretted it or it was wrong?

  • baal

    Another item for the list of things that make Romney look like he doesn’t really understand that other people have feelings and why that matters.

  • jamessweet

    He says he doesn’t remember it, but apologized for his role in any “pranks that might have gotten out of hand” or something to that effect.

    I’m not sure we can read that much into Romney’s character from this… The broader problem is that this kind of behavior was tolerated back then. I mean, that’s freakin’ assault, and it had no consequences. Without consequences for that kind of thing, kids are just gonna do that shit… I know I did some things when I was a kid which I am not proud of — nothing physical like that, but still.

    That said, I think the Obama campaign should exploit this to the fullest.

    • Robert B.

      That Romney didn’t remember the incident actually lowered my opinion of him. Everyone does stupid things as a kid, but if he forgot that incident, it means he never really examined his mistakes or changed his opinions. He didn’t learn anything about himself from it. He’s still that nasty, privileged teenager on the inside.

    • jamessweet

      He may or may not be telling the truth about not remembering it. It might just be a strategy so that he doesn’t have to answer questions about it.

    • Robert B.

      True. But if it was a lie, it’s a lie that’s not going to help him with anyone who’s been the victim of this kind of bullying (and there are a lot of us.) Would his base really have been mad if he’d said, “Yes, that was wrong. I believe homosexuality is wrong, but what I did was wrong, too”?

    • jamessweet

      Yeah, it’s a tough call. On the one hand, “I don’t remember it” comes off poorly. On the other hand, if he says he remembers it, then people can ask him questions about it, and that’s potentially dangerous.

      *shrug* It’s bad for him either way, especially with so many independent confirmations of the story, all of which concur on the major details. Even if I don’t think this tells us a tremendous amount about his character (at least not much that we didn’t already know), it’s still going to hurt him politically.

  • Robert B.

    Wow. Well, I’m not impressed at all with Obama for his milkwater, self-sabotaged announcement of support. But, yup, still voting for him; the alternative is worse. Not just gay-bashing pranks, I noticed, but ableist ones, too. My takeaway: underneath the robotic, convinction-free public demeanor, Romney is secretly a bigoted asshole.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Romney is secretly a bigoted asshole.

      Actually, he’s been doing his best to convince people of this for months and yet the conservatives still won’t take his word!

    • Robert B.

      Hah. I can’t blame them, I didn’t believe him either. It’s pretty clear that you can’t deduce Romney’s personal positions from his political ones.

  • naturalcynic

    Awwww, shucks, that’s nothing. After all, little Georgie Bush used to blow up frogs with firecrackers. Mittens would never be that mean, maybe.

  • slc1

    The only conviction Romney the rat has is that he should be elected president next November. Other then that, he’s open to suggestions.

  • http://www.atomiccitizen.net/ EricJ

    Did Romney ever admit to the incident, or say anything to the effect that he regretted it or it was wrong?

    Update via Andrew Sullivan:

    http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2012/05/romney-a-gay-basher-in-high-school-ctd.html

  • nomadic

    I planned to vote for Obama anyway. This just makes me feel more like he’s the better candidate.

  • Zugswang

    You know, I’m not really interested about what he was like while he was on the back-end of puberty. Most people are very different than who they were in high school, so while we’re talking about the same human being, we’re comparing two very different people.

    I can’t say I’d get along very well with my high school self, a passive-aggressive, chronically-depressed kid who often used the word “gay” when he meant “stupid”, and harbored an irritating obsession towards anime and Japan.

    There’s plenty of stuff just in the last 10 years of Mitt Romney’s adult career that’s ripe for criticism, we don’t need to dig up irrelevant details from 50 years ago about a 16 year-old kid to make it clear that he isn’t a good candidate for federal public office.

    • Cipher, OM

      Most people are very different than who they were in high school, so while we’re talking about the same human being, we’re comparing two very different people.

      But are we, though? I’m sympathetic to concerns about people being different in adolescence. (I was an openly misogynistic “colorblind” racist woo-infested Rand-cultist in high school, not to mention just generally an asshole.) But we’re talking about a guy who didn’t face consequences for his adolescent actions, either doesn’t remember them or pretends not to, offers minimizing notpologies for them, and demonstrates himself to still be a bigot and a bully in his adulthood. When a person has done something that damaging and horrible at any point in his life, I feel like there is room to expect him to be genuinely sorry for it, and prove he’s changed.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      If today he was an unapologetic defender of gay rights who admitted to a more ignorant past, I would not think anything of this as a reflection of his character. I have my own stories about treating gay friends badly (though I didn’t bully them and I exhibited far less deliberate cruelty) before I shook my Christianity, and even shortly after I deconverted as I was still sorting things out. But I have confessed to those things indirectly (like here) and, should they ever serve a purpose, will talk about them explicitly.

      The point is, those stories of mistakes in treating my gay friends will be part of a narrative of learning to fully embrace and support gay people’s homosexuality and their rights to full moral and legal equality. So even if those stories came out from third parties out to shame me, I could say, look, here are my public writings of the last several years, those mistakes happened over 12-15 years ago and I repudiate them and my writings show that I have completely changed my attitudes since then. Where is Romney’s conversion to fully standing up for the gender non-conformists? Where did his bullying behavior stop? Was it at Bain when he was taking over companies, firing all the employees and having them reapply for their jobs for half the pay, raiding their retirement funds and bankrupting their companies? Was it in the presidential nominating contests when he was making a bitter enemy out of every opponent with his especially nasty blitz of ads, run on 10 times the money?

  • herewegoagain

    Recently, I ran into a former co-worker who is gay. Hadn’t seen this person in over ten years. We were great pals on the job although I made it known I was a born again Christian and thought homosexuality was a sin. I apologized to him to my religious foolishness. He laughed and said I wasn’t so bad. I dunno, but it pains me to think about it. Yet, it was my friendships with gay co-workers that forced me to rethink about beliefs about many things because they did not conformed to the religious stereotypes of gay people. My gay co-workers had more compassion and were more ethical than many of the Christian ministers I sat under.

  • http://www.facebook.com/anythingbuttheist Bret

    I say we pin Romney down and shave his head.

  • kraut

    “I’m not sure we can read that much into Romney’s character from this…”

    He was an arsehole than, and he still is one now.
    Like Bush he is consistent in being an arsehole.

  • billyeager

    I find it particularly disturbing that a man of his age refers to the assault and humiliation of another human being as a ‘prank’, something that implies the involvement of ‘humour’. By all means, given the ‘young and foolish’ age at which this assault took place, he might consider expressing a little horror at recalling this incident and have the good grace to show a little humility and regret over it, but he has no right to attempt to shrug it off and give it the false air of ‘respectability’ by way of calling it a ‘boys-will-be-boys’ prank.

    This wasn’t some boisterous interplay between classmates of equal social standing, it was a nasty and vindictive assault.

    Experience tells us that the douchebag super-hetero jocks frequently turn out one of two ways. Either they grow into nasty homophobic adults, who probably fantasise about meeting George Michael in the restroom, so they can ‘fuck him over real good’ (i.e. have sex with him), or they come out of the closet, admit they are gay and are genuinely mortified and reticent about their prior behaviour.

    It would not surprise me in the least to hear that Mitt Romney regularly lunches on man-meat.

    Family Guy anyone?
    Jock #1: Hey Chris, c’mon lets corner the nerds and call them gay and make them show us their penises!

    • Robert B.

      You know, I don’t really like this claim (and it’s not just you, it’s everywhere) that anti-gay bigots are secretly gay themselves. Yes, there have been high-profile scandals where that was the case, and we all smirked at the hypocrisy.

      But, still, calling bigotry evidence for gayness has… unfortunate implications. I mean, what are we supposed to take away from that? Are gay people more likely to be bigots than straight folks? Is heterosexism primarily the fault of GLBT people? If someone really was twisted around enough to hate on queerness while being GLBT themselves, if they were hurt and oppressed so much as to cause that, wouldn’t that make them objects of pity, even as our enemies? And is it ever a good idea to get in the habit of “accusing” someone of homosexuality as an insult? If Mitt Romney were gay, I’d still be his virulent political enemy, but I’d also be his queer brother, and I wouldn’t want him uncloseted by his enemies as an attack. (I know he probably wouldn’t feel the same way about me – he’s still an asshole – but thankfully what Mitt Romney does and believes doesn’t change right and wrong for me.)

      Plus, it might not be true. That’s always an important thing to keep in mind.

  • bayridge27

    “I’m not going be too concerned about their piece,” Romney said. “They talked about the fact that I played a lot of pranks in high school, and they describe some that you just say to yourself, ‘well, back in high school I did some dumb things.’ And if anybody was hurt by that or offended, obviously I apologize. But overall, high school years were a long time ago and I’m glad to have had some good friends in those years.”
    As for a specific incident spelled out in the lede of Horowitz’s piece, in which Romney allegedly cut the hair of a student who was apparently presumed to be gay, the former Massachusetts governor said he had no memory of the incident.
    “You know, I don’t remember that incident,” Romney said. “And I’ll tell you — I certainly don’t believe that I, or I can’t speak for other people of course, thought the fellow was homosexual. That was the furtherest thing from our minds back in the 1960s. So that was not the case. But as for the pranks that were played back then — I don’t remember them all but, again, you know high school days, I did stupid things and I’m afraid I got to say sorry for it.”
    Romney also downplayed another incident described in the Post story, which claimed Romney would say “Atta girl!” to a closeted gay student, noting that he was “closeted” and Romney had no way of knowing if he was gay.

    SO HE COULD NOT REMEMBER THE INCIDENT, BUT HE REMEMBERS WHETHER OR NOT HE THOUGHT THE KID WAS GAY. SOUNDS LIKE SELECTIVE MEMORY TO ME.

    Secondly, had this come to light and Romney owned up to it he could have spun it into an anti-bullying advocacy or something along those lines. but nooooooooooooo. he’s a politician & his first response is to get stuck like a dear in headlights and claim he “doesn’t remember” – come the fvck on.

  • jerrywarriner

    The typical American voter is shortsighted, ignorant, parochial and often votes for a candidate because of his stand on one or two issues. That’s why the quality of our elected representatives is so abysmal.

    A candidate has to be judged on many issues that don’t get much play during the campaign. Romney’s stand on social issues is driven by his efforts to shore up the GOP base. As such, his pronouncements may be forced.

    I’m much more concerned about what a Romney Administration would do about the Middle East, whether he’d end Obama’s policy of appeasement of the Arabs and other Muslims, end subsidies to the Palestinian Authority and sound the alarm on Muslim immigration in Europe, which is acting the way it did in 1938, the year of the Munich Agreement.

    Compared with those issues, gay marriage is small potatoes.

    Obama is lame, and his stand on Islamic-Fascism is weak and misdirected. His policies, if continued, will damage and weaken us and our allies critically.

    That’s why I will vote for Romney. Obama’s support for gay rights is nice, but it won’t affect our country’s survival.

    • Robert B.

      How nice for you, that you are free to focus on a different one or two issues than the rest of us. Perhaps you have health insurance already? And don’t expect to need an abortion? And it’s already legal, I imagine, for you to get married anywhere in the country.

    • satanaugustine

      Jerry – you are saying here that you are going to vote for Romney because his Middle East policies might be better than Obama’s? Seriously? That’s what you’re basing your vote on?

      You’re also saying “fuck you” to gays who want marry, women who want to have bodily autonomy, secularism, the poor, and every other group the GOP hates! And you’re basing it on, again, the possibility that Romney just might perhaps do exactly what you think needs to be done in the Middle East?!? What if his policies are even worse?

      ….and you have the nerve to complain about how ignorant most voters are? You don’t even know what Romney would do in the Middle East were he to become president. You just have faith that it’s going to be what you think needs to happen.

      Wow. Just wow.

    • KG

      I’m much more concerned about what a Romney Administration would do about the Middle East, whether he’d end Obama’s policy of appeasement of the Arabs and other Muslims, end subsidies to the Palestinian Authority and sound the alarm on Muslim immigration in Europe, which is acting the way it did in 1938, the year of the Munich Agreement.

      I missed this fuckwitted bigoted garbage. The USA under Obama continues its long-standing military, political and financial support of Israel against the Palestinians in the occupied territories, and its security guarantees to Israel. Whether you agree with this stance or not, that’s just fact. Muslims in the EU total less than 4% of the population, all immigration is now restricted, and Muslims in EU countries have practically zero political power. While the proportion of Muslims will rise, because their population currently has a higher birthrate, all past experience indicates that immigrant populations converge on the birthrate of the general population within a few decades. I’m an atheist living in Europe (specifically, the UK), and I’m very worried about the lcakwits, lunatics and bigots of the Republican Party gaining power in the USA; I’m not in the slightest worried about the mythical Islamic threat to Europe.

    • KG

      I should also have said, the comparison to appeasement of Hitler is both grossly offensive to the victims of the latter and their descendants, and indicative of complete dissociation from reality.

  • gvlgeologist

    I posted this on my facebook page with the link to the article:

    “Romney led a group that looked for this classmate, “came across Laubner, tackled him, and pinned him to the ground. As Laubner, his eyes filling with tears, screamed for help, Romney repeatedly clipped his hair with a pair of scissors.” The story has been verified by 5 other students who participated in the attack or observed it. All have vivid memories and expressed remorse. Some even spoke to the victim much later and apologized. Romney, on the other hand, claims not to remember. NOT TO REMEMBER? Bullying is something that, unfortunately, occurs far too often, and is intended to humiliate the victim. Sometimes, the bully realizes their error and tries to make it right (this happened with someone who bullied me). What does it say about the bully when they don’t even remember? That the bully did it so often that one instance doesn’t stand out? Or that they were so thoughtless that they really didn’t think it worth remembering?

    I remember doing some things that were cruel back when I was in school (nothing rising even distantly to that) and I am ashamed. Romney apparently is not. And that’s not the only evidence of cruelty by that privileged student while at that school, against others with less power.”

    I might add that if rMoney didn’t lead the attack because he thought that Laubner was gay, then what was the motivation? Was it simply because Laubner did not conform to the standards of this ritzy private school? Somehow this doesn’t make me think any better of rMoney.

  • alexmartin

    Jeez Louise.
    How contrived an issue can you get?
    Y’all think you have the full story or all the “witness” testimony?
    What has the family of the deceased, alleged victim of a near-50 year old high school prank said on the record about the usage of this “bullying” incident to destroy a presidential candidate and bolster the incumbent?

    Have you heard that the popular media has cropped and altered the statements and testimony of the parties involved, altering same to reflect badly upon Romney?

    “Bullying”, then? Don’t you find this curious, how nicely this attack dovetails so nicely with recent “anti-bullying” initiatives we incessantly suffer through of late? Happy coincidence, I suppose. Nice that all the “witnesses” are staunch democrat left-wingers at that, I am told.

    And he “hates” “gays” as well. Bee-utiful. Swell. How unbelievably, fortuitously, purely coincidental this all is.

    See, because of this, because Romney mighta been a prankster IN HIGHSCHOOL–and a mean, gay-bashing, “bullying” one at that, then it necessarily follows that…

    Obama should remain (ahem) (snicker, chortle!)president of the United States. He deserves it. Of course.

    Record–or lack there of– of not bringing the country out “the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression” be damned. Trillions of new debt to our enemies, irrelevant. Bill Clinton (allegedly) calling him “incompetent” and an “amateur” as president? Hardly matters.

    No, what matters is what kind of character Romney was as a child.

    But then again, oh, reeeally?
    Hmm, is that the standard now? What next– are we going to start looking at his grades in primary school? College dissertations or transcripts? Are we gonna now seriously vet this man by conducting a thorough investigation of his school years, pals and chums, associates and friends, clubs and fraternities? The members of his Temple and their politicial or religious viewpoint?

    For really though?

    What you didn’t care or dare do to mystery Man Obama who you know absolutely nothing about prior to his speechifying in 2006 at the Democrat Convention, and about who’s academic life, friends, associates and the like you have no clue about to this day–that’s what we’re now going to do against Mitt Romney?

    Are y’all fuckin’ serious?

    Obama, the radical Marxist sympathizer, raised by a communist mother, son of a communist father, step-parented by a radical communist, convicted pedophile Frank Marshall Davis, sponsored and ghost written by convicted, anti-American terrorist Bill Ayers and the like, 20 years in a whitey-hating, Black Liberation, “God-damn America” church–

    –and y’all wanna talk about a 16 year old kid from 50 years ago.

    Get the fuck outta here.

  • alexmartin

    I think–no, I KNOW– that you people realize when you’re being worked over, like a poor, unfortunate, 10-peso Tijuana whore (–oops, er, “sex-worker”); It’s just that you dig it so much when you get bent over the way you like that makes it all a-ok.

    Everyone of you knows what is going on here. The Dirty Tricks Brigade is hard at work here, busily churning out tripe, assiduously fabricating, formulating, and fomenting fake, diversionary irrelevant non-issues to distract the idiot masses, follow-the-bouncing-ball, never mind the man behind the curtain stupidity, and mainlining it Jerry Springer-style into the political process.

    Anything to keep the current lout and his administration in power. The desired end ever justifies the means required to achieve it.

    You iz wit’ dat.

    But fear not: you’ve also made Mitt a dog-hater, though your guy Obama is known to have EATEN man’s best friend. You’ve made Mittens an out of touch, evil rich, silver spoon elitist, never minding Obama’s Harvard background and personal millions, and on and on and on, ad nauseum, because “truth” doesn’t matter in the least, if it ain’t on your side.

    Abject hypocrisy is the most viable weapon ’round here.If it were a pathogen, you’d all be sucking wind in the isolation ward.

    Keep your yap shut, your head down, and your nose to the grindstone.

  • potsandowls

    At the very least, I think we can all rest assured that M. Romney is praying daily for god to restore his high school memories. Which god can totally do. There is sure to be a press conference very soon at which Romney will tell the story as god showed it to him.

  • c0ppert0p

    “How contrived an issue can you get?”? seriously?
    ummm, “swift boat”, “white water”, “birthers”, “war on religion”, war on marriage”, “hidden gay agenda”

    Wingnuts practically invented the game of, “tell a big enough lie and people will believe it. Oh wait, that was the Nazis. oh wait, they are the same thing.

    • John Morales

      ‘taint the Catholic Church that’s the subject at hand.

  • KG

    alexmartin,

    I notice you do not supply a single particle of evidence for any one of your claims of dirty tricks to keep Obama in power. As for the comparison between Obama’s and Romney’s backgrounds, you’re obviously delusional. The simple fact is that Romney came from a highly privileged family background, and Obama did not.

  • KG

    Incidentally, alexmartin, I had a look at the “Obama ate dog” stuff. Yes, he did, when he was in Indonesia, between the ages of 6 and 10 years. That you consider this a point raising against him says a great deal more about you than about him.


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