AirTalk for May 11, 2012

Mitt Romney’s alleged prep school bullying may hurt his campaign

Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Was Mitt Romney a bully in High School? Does it matter?

Mitt Romney is the presumed Republican presidential nominee. He’s considered to be a hard working, determined businessman and a tireless politician whose people skills are slightly on the stiff and aloof side. But no one has accused him of being a bully -– until now.

The Washington Post reported Thursday that when Romney was at an all-boys prep school in the mid 1960s he led a “posse” of students in an attack on a soft-spoken student who was perpetually teased for his “nonconformity and presumed homosexuality.” According to Post reporter Jason Horowitz, the student, John Lauber, had “bleached-blond hair draped over one eye” and Romney and his friends grabbed him one day, held him down while young Mitt hacked off his hair.

Caller Frank from San Clemente, Calif. says he was at Cranbrook School the same time Romney was a student. He says the incident may not have had anything to do with Lauber's sexual orientation, instead it may have been because of the length of Lauber's hair.

"I don't think it had anything to do with Lauber being gay, that was right at the time when kids were starting wearing longer hair and the upper classmen didn't like it," said Frank during the show. "There were several cases where they cut younger kids, or other kids hair that were growing long so that's what it was all about. I don't think it was really a big issue at all."

In a statement to the Post, campaign spokeswoman, Andrea Saul said “anyone who knows Mitt Romney knows that he doesn’t have a mean-spirited bone in his body. The stories of fifty years ago seem exaggerated and off base and Governor Romney has no memory of participating in these incidents.”

But even if these incidents seem “off base” now what were they inspired by then? Does it matter what politicians did 50 years ago? Can we extrapolate something important about someone’s character from an incident that happened during adolescence and should we judge the current Romney by these acts of teenage bullying?

Also, an anti-gay bullying story involving one presidential candidate comes out the day after his opponent comes out in support of gay marriage, meanwhile the Huffington Post reports the Washington Post held the Romney story back from their print edition. Is there anything to the timing?

ATTENTION: We are looking for the caller Frank from San Clemente who called into the show today. If you are Frank, please email Airtalk@scpr.org or call KPCC at (626) 583-5100 and ask to be transferred to an AirTalk producer


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