Mitt Romney: Preppy Prankster or Old-School Bully?

Published by Joyce Jones on Friday, May 11, 2012 at 6:30 pm.

(Photo: Courtesy Cranbrook Schools)

Today’s edition of The Washington Post features an article about Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney that tarnishes the gleaming image he’s spent a lifetime creating. It focuses on an incident in which Romney led a band of boarding school boys in an attack on a fellow student that today would get him expelled from his alma mater, the prestigious Cranbrook School, and suggests that the student may have been bullied because he was gay.

New boy John Lauber had bleached-blond hair that draped over one eye, The Post reports, and stood out from the other students whose hair was as manicured as the fields surrounding the single-sex school. It’s a look that former classmate Matthew Friedemann recalls appalled Romney, who described it as “wrong.”

Romney and his posse tackled and pinned Lauber to the floor in a room in their dorm and the future Massachusetts governor clipped his hair with a pair of scissors.

It was a really cruel thing to do, but, hey, boys will be boys, right? What some may find more troubling is the contrast between Friedemann and other sources quoted in the piece, who years later are still haunted by the shameful memory, and the instigator. Romney said he didn’t remember the incident but later acknowledged doing “some stupid things in high school” and apologized for any harm he may have caused. Some pundits have asked if Romney doesn’t really remember or if he is simply not telling the truth.

Conservatives will slam the article as “gotcha journalism” and argue that Romney shouldn’t be judged by something he did as a kid. Others will cite a seeming lack of empathy for ordinary Americans frequently exhibited on the campaign trail and the way he bullied former presidential opponents with negative advertising and argue that it’s a statement about his character, or lack thereof.

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