Just one day after President Barack Obama’s big announcement that he supports the legal right of gay couples to marry, Republican nominee-apparent Mitt Romney is scrambling to contain an unexpected revelation.
A close friend of Romney’s, when the two were attending a private boarding school outside Detroit during their high school years, says Romney forcibly held down and cut the hair of a fellow student despite the student’s screams for help.
The Romney friend, Matthew Friedemann, told the Washington Post, in a story published May 10, that the victim of the attack had tears in his eyes and was screaming for help when he, Romney, and several other students tackled the non-conforming student whom many presumed to be gay.
The Post said four of the other students who participated in the attack confirmed it. One recalled it as “vicious.” Friedemann said Romney organized and led the attack.
Asked about the Post story, Romney told Fox News Radio Thursday that he didn’t recall the incident but added, “I certainly don’t believe that I … thought the fellow was homosexual.”
Although he didn’t remember the incident, he characterized the attack as a prank, acknowledged that it might have gone “too far,” but said he considers himself to be “a very different person” now.
The victim of the 1965 attack, according to the Post, was John Lauber, who died in 2004. In high school, Lauber had grown his hair long, bleached it, and wore it in a style that it draped over one eye. That, according to Friedemann, led many students to presume Lauber was gay.
Friedemann said Romney saw Lauber’s hairstyle and said, “He can’t look like that. That’s wrong!” A few days later, said Friedemann, he found Romney leading a group of students into a room where Lauber was. Friedemann said Romney and the group grabbed Lauber, pinned him to the floor, and enabled Romney to cut his hair.
The Post got confirmation of the attack from five of the students who participated in it.
Alex Shriver, a Romney campaign spokesman, on MSNBC Thursday afternoon, blew off a question about the incident, calling it a “temporary media distraction, with sort of questionable timing.”
But the Post found another fellow student of Romney’s, Gary Hummel, who was gay at the time and recalled Romney mocking him with “Atta girl!” whenever we spoke out in class.
- Lisa Keen