Mitt Romney apologizes for high school pranks that ‘might have gone too far’

Mitt Romney apologized Thursday morning for pranks he helped orchestrate in high school that he said “might have gone too far,” including an incident in which he pinned down a fellow student and cut his hair.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee was responding to an article published a few hours earlier by The Washington Post documenting the episode with first-hand accounts from Romney’s classmates at the Cranbrook Schools in Michigan.

“Back in high school, I did some dumb things, and if anybody was hurt by that or offended, obviously I apologize for that,” Romney said in a live radio interview with Fox News Channel personality Brian Kilmeade. Romney added: “I participated in a lot of hijinks and pranks during high school, and some might have gone too far, and for that I apologize.”

Romney’s campaign hastily scheduled the radio interview for the candidate to call in from Omaha, where he is holding a campaign event later Wednesday, to respond to The Post’s report.

Romney said the incident involving cutting the hair of John Lauber, whom some students suspected was gay, occurred “a long time ago.”

“I don’t remember that incident,” Romney said, laughing. “I certainly don’t believe that I thought the fellow was homosexual. That was the furthest thing from our minds back in the 1960s, so that was not the case.”

Asked specifically about having interrupted a closeted gay student in English class, Gary Hummel, by shouting, “Atta girl!” Romney said, “I really can’t remember that.”

“As this person indicated, he was closeted,” Romney said. “I had no idea that he was gay and can’t speak to that even today. But as to the teasing or the taunts that go on in high school, that’s a long time ago. For me, that’s about 48 years ago. Again, if there’s anything I said that is offensive to someone, I certainly am sorry for that, very deeply sorry for that.”

Romney said that after marrying his high school sweetheart, Ann, and going on a Mormon mission to France, he is “a very different person.”

“I’m a very different person than I was in high school, of course, but I’m glad that I learned as much as I did during those high school years,” Romney said, adding: “I’m quite a different guy now. I’m married, have five sons, five daughters-in-law, and now 18 grandchildren.”

He said he hoped the campaign would focus on what he considers bigger issues — the economy, energy and labor policies, Iran’s nuclear development.

“There’s going to be some that want to talk about high school,” Romney said. “Well, if you really think that’s important, be my guest.”

Philip Rucker is a national political correspondent for The Washington Post, where he has reported since 2005.
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