Mitt Romney Responds to Bullying Accusations and Denies Knowing Classmate Was Gay
After the story broke earlier in the day with Mitt Romney's former Cranbrook prep school classmates recalling the "viscous" attack on one of their fellow students who they believed to be gay, the Romney campaign is in full damage control mode and not doing a very good job of it.
Romney appeared on Fox's Your Word With Neil Cavuto and attempted another "apology" when asked about the incident:
ROMNEY: First of all, I had no idea what that individual’s sexual orientation might be. Going back to the 1960′s, that wasn’t something we all discussed or considered. So that’s simply just not accurate. I don’t recall the incident myself but I’ve seen the reports and not going argue with that. There’s no question that I did some stupid things when I was in high school and, obviously, if I hurt anyone by virtue of that I would be very sorry for it and apologize for it.
Here's more from Romney's other non-apologies that he gave earlier the same day: Romney apologizes for hurtful high school pranks:
Mitt Romney repeatedly apologized Thursday for pranks he played in high school that may have offended or hurt other students, even though he said he does not remember them. The apologies in interviews throughout the day began in a Fox News radio interview that host Brian Kilmeade said was lined up because Romney wanted to discuss a Washington Post story about the incidents.
The Post story led with a vivid description of Romney repeatedly clipping the hair of a young man - presumed by other students to be gay - while other classmates pinned him to the floor, as the victim screamed for help and his eyes filled with tears. "I don't remember that incident," Romney told Kilmeade. "I tell you I certainly don't believe that I ... thought the fella was homosexual. That was the furthest thing from our minds back in the 1960s. So that was not the case. But as to pranks that were played back then, I don't remember them all but again, high school days - if I did stupid things I'm afraid I gotta say sorry for it."
Phillip Maxwell, an attorney in Michigan, confirmed to CBS News that the incident with John Lauber is accurately described in The Washington Post piece. Maxwell was one of the Post's four on-the-record sources. A fifth asked not to be named. Maxwell says the only thing not accurate is that the Post reporter said the incident occurred in a dorm room, but it happened in a common room.
"Mitt was a prankster, there's no doubt about it. This thing with Lauber wasn't a prank. This was, well, as a lawyer, it was an assault. It was an assault and a battery. And I'm sure that John Lauber carried it with him for the rest of his life," Maxwell told CBS News.
The Post's article details Romney's teen-age years spent at Cranbrook, a prestigious prep school in Michigan, and focuses on the many pranks played by the future presidential contender. Several were harmless but others are remembered as cruel, insensitive or frightening to the victims.
Maxwell, who is not a Republican and wasn't planning to vote for Romney, says "this isn't a politically motivated thing for me. I got asked questions by [Post reporter] Jason Horowitz and I responded honestly to him. I didn't decide to bring this thing up. But I think it probably is relevant."
"I've carried this story with me a long time. It was very disturbing. I think that view is shared by everyone involved in it," Maxwell says. "It just was a black mark on my character that I didn't stop it."
The hair-cutting incident, according to The Washington Post, was confirmed by five of Romney's classmates who described the event as "senseless, stupid, idiotic" and "vicious." Candy Porter was the victim of a well-known prank in which Romney and his Cranbrook friends posed as cops, complete with fake siren and badges, and pretended to bust some friends and their dates. Porter told the Post she was "terrified."
Romney was also remembered as having shouted "Atta girl!" when another closeted gay student tried to speak up in the classroom.
Romney said he did not recall that incident. "You know there are a lot of times, my guess is at a boys' school when one of the boys do something and people say 'hey atta girl,'... I had no idea that he was gay," Romney explained when asked about the comment. He again apologized for having offended anyone, saying no harm was intended.
When you start a statement with the words, "if anybody was hurt or offended" as though you don't know already that they were, it's not an apology. Romney is making himself look ridiculous claiming he had no idea the classmate was gay and it's completely contradicted by the statements made by the five other classmates quoted in the Washington Post article.
The larger problem for the Romney campaign is it paints a picture of him that many people had in their minds already, which is that he's a person who is incapable of feeling empathy and who doesn't mind picking on or abusing those who are weaker than he is.