Mitt Romney: Anti-Gay Bully?

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In what could be a damning anecdote from Mitt Romney’s more youthful days, Jason Horowitz at the Washington Post reports that the presumptive GOP nominee not only participated in but led what could be described as an assault on a fellow student thought to be gay.

Apparently John Lauber, a fellow student at the upscale Cranbrook High School in Michigan, didn’t fit the 60s-era mould of “masculinity,” and faced constant torment from his peers, including Romney.

After a spring break, Lauber returned to school with bleached blond hair, a look of which young Romney did not approve. “He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!” Romney reportedly told a friend. He subsequently organized a crew to hold down Lauber and cut his hair.

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.

Lauber passed away in 2004.

It is tempting to claim this story will bolster Romney’s standings among anti-gay conservatives, but let’s keep in mind that bullying has since the death of Tyler Clementi become a national, bipartisan issue and the idea that a potential president initiated such an incident could turn off moderate or wary voters.