In May 2012, while Mitt Romney was running as the U.S. Presidential Candidate for the Republican Party, a story appeared in the press regarding an incident in which he was allegedly involved at the private Cranbrook School when he was a teenager.[1]

The story first appeared in the Washington Post and described how Romney, in the spring of 1965 while a senior at Cranbrook, allegedly bullied John Lauber, a new student in his junior year who came to school with “bleached-blond hair that draped over one eye”. A former friend stated that Romney said: “He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!”[2] According to the story Romney, "brandishing a pair of scissors, led other boys on a hunt" and teased Lauber.[1] Romney along with several other students allegedly tackled Lauber, pinning him down as he cried and screamed for help, while Romney cut his hair with a pair of scissors. [3]

Romney responded to the story by saying he did not remember the incident and on May 11 he apologized generally for his high school pranks: "I participated in a lot of hijinks and pranks during high school, and some might have gone too far".[4]

Many media reporters noted how the news item could affect the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election.[5]

Implications for 2012 presidential election

The "Cranbrook account" started a new debate in the 2012 United States presidential election regarding Romney, "Was this a sole episode of youthful poor judgment by Mr. Romney or a larger statement about his character?"[1] According to the New York Times the Romney campaign has been attempting for months to turn "away from questions about the candidate’s character and focus on his proposals to improve the economy."[1] The Week in summarizing the news and opinion reports, noted that Lauber was presumptively gay, although Romney stated Lauber's sexual orientation "was the furthest thing from my mind back in the 1960s."[5] The New York Times noted that the story, in light of Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage and the North Carolina vote against it, illustrates how society's attitudes have shifted and that "bullying was decades away from being a subject for assemblies and school psychologists."[1] The New Yorker's Ann Davidson noted how Lauber told one of his attackers he felt frightened and thought of the Romney-led incident often, Davidson wondered if Romney could relate to anyone else being treated as Lauber had been.[6]


The article was researched by Washington Post reporter Jason Horowitz and Julie Tate. Five classmates were reportedly interviewed as well as Lauber's sisters. The five made corroborating statements and four of them permitted their names to be used.

Philip Maxwell
Considered the act to be assault and battery, describing himself and his friends as a “pack of dogs.” [7] He also stated "It was vicious."[3]
Matthew Friedemann
“He was just easy pickins,” [3]
Thomas Buford
“It happened very quickly, and to this day it troubles me,” “What a senseless, stupid, idiotic thing to do.” [8]
David Seed
Recalled meeting Lauber thirty years later in O'Hare airport. According to Seed, Lauber recalled the incident as being "horrible" and “It’s something I have thought about a lot since then.” [3]


The original reporting noted John Lauber was "perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality."[9]

He died in 2004, prior to the story; however, the Washington Post interviewed his surviving sisters. His sister Betsy Lauber released a statement on behalf of the family to ABC News, saying, "the portrayal of John is factually incorrect and we are aggrieved that he would be used to further a political agenda. There will be no more comments from the family." One of his other sisters, Christine Lauber, stated “Even if it did happen, John probably wouldn’t have said anything." [10]

Romney response

Romney's campaign provided a statement that was published in the Washington Post that read: “The stories of fifty years ago seem exaggerated and off base and Governor Romney has no memory of participating in these incidents.” Romney, on May 10, 2012, offered a blanket apology for anything that might have slipped his mind. According to an interview with Brian Kilmeade on Fox Radio:

Back in high school, you know, I did some dumb things, and if anybody was hurt by that or offended, obviously, I apologize for that… You know, I don’t, I don’t remember that particular incident [laughs]… I participated in a lot of high jinks and pranks during high school, and some might have gone too far, and for that I apologize.[11][12]

In the interview Romney further stated, I certainly don't believe that I thought the fellow was homosexual.[13] Some news outlets noted Romney's responses came of as flip-floping.[5]

Criticism of original reports

The Washington Post originally reported that Stu White, one of Romney's friends, had “long been bothered” by the haircutting incident. The Washington Post then corrected its article by saying he had been bothered "since hearing about it several weeks ago, before being contacted by The Washington Post." without initially noting the correction.[14]

Subsequent to the articles release in the digital version on May 10th 2012 the print version the following day contained a minor change. The Washington Post, issued a statement that clarified a point in the article. They did not call this a correction, rather they termed it an "editors note:"

"An earlier version of this story reported that White “has long been bothered” by the Lauber incident. White later clarified in a subsequent interview that he has been disturbed by the incident since he learned of it several weeks ago from a former classmate, before being contacted by The Washington Post."[15]

This in turn led to more details of the vetting process employed by the Washington Post. Jason Horowitz, among others, reportedly worked 3 weeks on the article and it was reviewed by David Maraniss.[16]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Bullying Story Spurs Apology From Romney, Ashley Parker and Jodi Kantor, New York Times, May 10, 2012, [1]
  2. Mitt Romney's prep school classmates recall pranks but also troubling incidents, Washinton Post, by Jason Horowitz, May 10, 2012
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Template:Cite web
  4. “I participated in a lot of hijinks and pranks during high school, and some might have gone too far, and for that I apologize.”
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Mitt Romney's 'cruel and nasty' high school bullying: 5 ways it hurts him - The story of one mean-spirited act from 50 years ago is causing Team Romney a huge headache. A look at why it could get even worse, May 11, 2012, The Week,[2]
  6. May 10, 2012, Mitt Romney, Bully, Amy Davidson, The New Yorker, [3]
  7. Template:Cite web
  8. Template:Cite web
  9. Mitt Romney's 'hijinks' seen as bullying today, May 16, 2012, Leanne Italie, Associated Press. [4]
  10. Template:Cite web
  11. Amy Davidson. Mitt Romney bully. The New Yorker. May 10, 2012.
  12. Romney counters notion bullied gay classmates. Fox News / AP, May 10, 2012.
  13. Template:Cite news
  14. Washington Post Romney Hit Piece Implodes by Ben Shapiro, May 11, 2011
  15. Washington Post change to Romney story wasn't a correction, Poynter, by Andrew Beaujon, May 11, 2012
  16. Mitt Romney bully story holds up to scrutiny, by Washington Post ombudsman, Patrick Pexton, published in Washington Post, May 11, 2012

This is adapted from a deleted Wikipedia article.