On Thursday, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was accused of attacking a student whom he believed to be gay during his prep school years. Although Romney claimed to have no memory of the incident, he apologized on Thursday for the “dumb things” he did back in high school. But now, the family of the purported victim is speaking up and slamming the story as a political ploy.
Christine Lauber, the older sister of Romney’s classmate, John Lauber, claims she has no knowledge of the bullying incident involving her brother, who passed away from liver cancer in 2004. When ABC News showed Christine the story, she became agitated and somewhat emotional.
“Even if it did happen, John probably wouldn’t have said anything,” she said. “If he were still alive today, he would be furious [about the story].”
Betsy, another sister, spoke up about the incident as well. Aside from stating that the portrayal of her brother is inaccurate, she said the family is frustrated that the story is being used to push a political agenda.
“The family of John Lauber is releasing a statement saying the portrayal of John is factually incorrect and we are aggrieved that he would be used to further a political agenda,” she said. “There will be no more comments from the family.”
As The Blaze originally reported, the accusation has been corroborated by Phillip Maxwell, a lawyer and a former classmate of the top GOP candidate. Others, too, have reportedly corroborated the tale. Here’s the original story, as reported by The Washington Post:
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.
A few days later, Friedemann entered Stevens Hall off the school’s collegiate quad to find Romney marching out of his own room ahead of a prep school posse shouting about their plan to cut Lauber’s hair. Friedemann followed them to a nearby room where they came upon Lauber, tackled him and pinned him to the ground. As Lauber, his eyes filling with tears, screamed for help, Romney repeatedly clipped his hair with a pair of scissors.
Over on Breitbart.com, the Washington Post was accused of inflating witness testimony in reporting on the bullying story. According to the news site, the original article read:
“I always enjoyed his pranks,” said Stu White, a popular friend of Romney’s who went on to a career as a public school teacher and has long been bothered by the Lauber incident.
Then, in an interview on ABC News, Breitbart.com notes that White railed against this notion. The ex-classmate apparently said that he wasn’t at the school when the prank unfolded and that he only found out about it a few weeks ago. This, of course, calls into question the notion that White was bothered by the incident for a long time (after all, he just learned about it).
Breitbart.com charges that the Post, after falsifying the testimony, made a correction within the article, which now reads:
“I always enjoyed his pranks,” said Stu White, a popular friend of Romney’s who went on to a career as a public school teacher and said he has been “disturbed” by the Lauber incident since hearing about it several weeks ago, before being contacted by The Washington Post. “But I was not the brunt of any of his pranks.” [emphasis added]
While this says little about whether the incident actually unfolded as some witnesses claim, it is noteworthy that the Post purportedly added to the story. It is here, using this example, that many will certainly claim bias.
Romney, of course, has apologized for hurting anyone during his high school years, but aside from not remembering the aforementioned incident, he has said that those years are far behind him. Since the allegations came to light, the Romney campaign has worked diligently to expel the implications that the candidate was a bully during his teen years.
“Mitt was a thoughtful guy with a great sense of humor who cared about his classmates. He had a good perspective on how to balance all the pressures high school students face,” said Richard Moon, a former classmate, in a statement released by the campaign. “He would never go out and do anything mean spirited. Clownish, yes. Never mean.”
Ex-classmate John French echoed this sentiment in the release as well, stating, ”Mitt never had a malicious bone in his body – trying to imply or characterize him as a bully is absurd.”
The scandal over the purported bullying incident came just one day after President Barack Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage. Naturally, some are questioning the timing of this story as it pertains to the aforementioned announcement.
This story has been updated.
(H/T: ABC News)