Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Is it fair to judge Mitt Romney for things he did in high school?

Mitt Romney

Carlos Osorio/Carlos Osorio/PA

From crate-gate to cookie-gate to revelations he was a prodigious bully in boarding school, allegations of Mitt Romney's mean streak keep surfacing.

This time, Mr. Romney has had to publicly apologize for playing "rogue teen barber" with a boy who was presumed gay at his high school.

The Washington Post reported that Mr. Romney and several friends cornered classmate John Lauber in his dorm room, then held him down and cut off his long, bleached blond hair as he yelled for help. The Post said Mr. Lauber was "perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality."

Story continues below advertisement

ABC News later spoke to an unnamed classmate who likened Mr. Romney's behaviour to Lord of the Flies.

The allegations had the Republican candidate doing quick damage control following President Barack Obama's all-out support of gay marriage this week.

"I participated in a lot of hijinks and pranks during high school and some may have gone too far. And for that I apologize," Mr. Romney said in a radio interview with Fox News.

He also claimed no memory of the haircut and no knowledge of Mr. Lauber's sexual orientation.

"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," he said in another radio interview Thursday.

Surprisingly, Mr. Romney's seeing a torrent of defenders on Twitter, some of them liberal.

Their question: Should an adult be tarred and feathered for high school nastiness nearly 50 years after the fact?

Story continues below advertisement

"I can't get around the simple fact that I wouldn't want to be judged today by some of the things I did in my teens, and I suspect many others feel the same way," wrote The Washington Post's Greg Sargent.

(Kasie Hunt of The Associated Press noted that at one point, the Romney campaign was actually talking up the candidate's reputation as a high-school prankster, with hopes of humanizing him.)

Critics are also using the story to dredge up anecdotes of victims becoming bullies when they're given the chance, "returning the favor with gusto," as one put it.

"I actually watched lots of formerly bullied girls become bullies themselves in girls' camp when social dynamic of cabin... shifted for some reason," tweeted The Atlantic's Megan McArdle. "In most cases difference between bullied and bullies was group support/encouragement, not... some fundamental difference in their character. I never saw a bullied girl turn down the opportunity to bully someone else."

What do you make of the latest fiasco? Is Mr. Romney getting off easy, or is it ludicruous to shame a 65-year-old for his high school persona?

Report an error
About the Author

Zosia More

Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the newsletter at

You can unsubscribe from this newsletter or Globe promotions at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of the newsletter, or by emailing us at