Mitt Romney countered the notion that he was a bully in high school and insisted he did not know some of his classmates were gay. The presumed Republican presidential candidate said he was sorry if his “hijinks and pranks during high school” offended other students.
His response and apology came during a quickly arranged radio interview in response to a Washington Post story that said he held down a classmate in high school and cut off his bleached blonde hair. The two students were classmates at a prestigious boarding school in the wealthy Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
The Post suggested John Lauber was bullied by Romney because he was gay.
“The people involved didn’t come out of the closet until years later,” Romney told a Fox News radio show. “I had no idea that this person might have been gay… I participated in a lot of hijinks and pranks during high school and some may have gone too far. And for that I apologize.”
The report and Romney’s defensive remarks are surfacing as his inconsistent record on gay rights is coming under fire following President Barack Obama’s approval of gay marriage. While he defended some gay rights when he was governor of Massachusetts, he was a leading voice in opposition of gay marriage.
The report quotes five of Romney’s former classmates who all recount the encounter with Lauber, who had long, bleached hair. Romney led a group of students who tackled Lauber and cut off his hair as Lauber’s eyes were “filling with tears,” according to the Post report.
The paper also told of other incidents, such as when Romney shouted “atta girl” at a student who later came out as gay.
When asked about Lauber during the radio interview, Romney said, “I don’t remember that incident. I certainly don’t believe that I thought the fellow was homosexual. That was the furthest thing from our minds back in the 1960s.”