The Washington Post

Is a decades old high school story really ‘news’?

The Post has a story on its Web site homepage about Mitt Romney’s prep school days, featuring an incident which is construed as anti-gay bullying. The reporter Jason Horowitz writes:

John Lauber, a soft-spoken new student one year behind Romney, was perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality. Now he was walking around the all-boys school with bleached-blond hair that draped over one eye, and Romney wasn’t having it.

“He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!” an incensed Romney told Matthew Friedemann, his close friend in the Stevens Hall dorm, according to Friedemann’s recollection. Mitt, the teenaged son of Michigan Gov. George Romney, kept complaining about Lauber’s look, Friedemann recalled.

Romney purportedly clipped Lauber’s hair while a classmate held him down.

Now wait a minute. Is this an act of anti-long hairism or anti-gay? There’s certainly more evidence of the former, yet this decades-old incident is run amidst news on the president’s shift on gay marriage.

Romney in a live radio interview with Fox News Channel personality Brian Kilmeade this morning said this: “I participated in a lot of hijinks and pranks during high school and some might have gone too far and for that, I apologize.” Here is the full exchange with Kilmeade who asked Romney about the piece:

ROMNEY: Oh, I’m not going to be too concerned about their piece. They talk about the fact that I played a lot of pranks in high school and they described some that, well, you just say to yourself that, back in high school, I did some dumb things and if anybody was hurt by that or offended, obviously I apologize. But overall, high school years were a long time ago and I’m glad I’ve got some good friends from those years.

KILMEADE: Right and some were speaking out and listed in this story, they talk about a prank that could have gone on in high school with a guy named John Lauber, who they say that you and a couple of his friends, this guy was thought to be a homosexual, cut his hair — pinned him down and cut his hair. Do you remember any of this?

ROMNEY: I don’t remember that incident and I’ll tell you I certainly don’t believe that I, I can’t speak for other people of course, thought the fellow was homosexual. That was the furthest thing from my mind 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, why I’m afraid I got to say sorry for it.

So let’s get back to the story itself: What is the point here? Frankly this seems that an incident was plucked out of a long story on Romney’s teen years to make an inference, without factual support, that Romney harbored anti-gay animus. As for the substance of the story, I would bet 90 percent of voters don’t think what you do in high school should be a consideration in a presidential race, especially when, as in this case, the adult shows no evidence of the bad behavior in question (bullying, in this case).

When long investigative pieces on Obama’s last three years (i.e. his presidency) start appearing on the front pages of newspapers, maybe the press has justification for going back decades to explore his opponent’s childhood. But so long as gobs of potential, substantive stories on Obama go unreported, you have to wonder why time and resources are spent on his opponent’s high school years. No wonder conservatives are suspicion of mainstream media.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.


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