May 11th, 2012

Bully Apologists Rally to Excuse Adolescent Romney


“Pranks,” “jocularity,” “no harm, no foul,”did stupid things,” and “if I hurt anyone … I would be very sorry for it and apologize.” Tired old canards and rationalizations by and about school bullies to escape responsibility for their actions. A disingenuous conditional “apology.”

All of this was acceptable in the pre-Columbine era when bullying was considered a harmless rite of passage. But now is now; school bullying is a regular installment in the mainstream media. Hardly a day passes without a story. The documentary by WBI colleague Lee Hirsch, “Bully” is playing in theaters right now. Society frowns on school bullying.

Now comes the story of Republican party leader and presidential candidate Mitt Romney with an image problem — a wooden style. A May 10 Washington Post account of his years at an exclusive Michigan all-boys boarding school, Cranbrook, recounts stories from classmates. The Romney campaign wants to use evidence of his youthful pranks to prove he was (and therefore implying that he is now) capable of looseness and fun.

However, the WP reporter Jason Horowitz, uncovered a serious 1965 incident in which Romney’s disdain for a classmate drove him to assault and battery. Romney was incensed by fellow student John Lauber’s new bleached blonde hairstyle. Romney told then dorm roommate Matthew Friedmann that Lauber “can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!” Four witnessing students went on record with independent accounts of Romney carrying scissors leading a posse (“pack of dogs” according to one participant) down the hall to Lauber’s room where they tackled him, pinned him down while he screamed and teared up, and Romney cut off clumps of the hair he hated. “It was a hack job,” recalled Phillip Maxwell, who was in the room when the incident occurred. “It was vicious.” To ABC News, Maxwell claimed it was “supreme bullying.”

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Romney, the dorm hair sheriff, and potential future president.

Make no mistake this was not a voluntary “haircut.” The assailants returned to Romney’s dorm room and made a point of not talking about it. Friedmann waited to see what consequences they or Romney would experience. None followed. Yet, Cranbrook was a school famous for its strict behavioral codes. Teachers were fanatics about militaristic white-gloved inspections for dorm room dust after 7 am breakfast where students wore coats and ties and carried briefcases. But nothing happened to Romney. Poor Lauber was expelled before he could graduate when turned in by a classmate for smoking a cigarette.

School Masters Modeled Bullying in the Boys-Will-Be-Boys World

Snitches were useful to school administrators. That’s how Lauber was booted out. Horowitz reported that expulsions were frequent. But nothing happened to Romney who entered Cranbrook as a 7th grader as a non-residential day student and graduated as a dorm resident with his father installed as governor of the state.

Discipline was “applied … briskly when needed” and offenders could be “dismissed, period,” according to Ben Snyder who was a teacher on the committee in charge of Cranbrook discipline. Despite this zero tolerance attitude for which the school must have been proud, Snyder recalled no problems with young Romney because “the family was so straight, they don’t do those types of things.” Wow. Daddy Romney was governor so, of course, son Willard Mitt, would never face discipline.

Given the shame victims endure, it is likely that Lauber did not report the assault. However, given Snyder’s refusal to see Romney doing anything bad, Lauber would have been treated as a liar. It would have taken the five witnesses to come forward truthfully, an outcome WBI research shows simply does not happen.

Almost worse than school administrators granting impunity to offenders they see as fun-loving pranksters is a homophobic school environment where teachers model bullying for the students. The WP article quoted Gary Hummel a gay student who said that Romney barked “Atta girl” whenever Hummel spoke up in class. However, Hummel said that the teachers used the same language.

The Non-Apology & Apologists

Because Romney is running for president, he was asked to comment. He can be heard laughing as he admits to doing “stupid things” when young. He told Neil Cavuto on Fox News “There’s no question that I did some stupid things in high school, and obviously, if I hurt anyone by virtue of that, I would be very sorry for it and apologize for it.”

Rachel Maddow replays clips of Mitt Romney’s inappropriate laughter.

The Romney friend, Gregg Dearth, in the ABC News TV clip above makes the confusing statement that you may “traumatize a little, but if no harm, no foul.” Hey, if traumatized, even a “little,” a foul has been committed.

Romney friend Stu White (quoted in the WP story) said, “I always enjoyed his pranks. But I was not the brunt of any of his pranks.” Enough said.

David Seed, one of the witnesses to the Lauber assault, ran into Lauber in the mid-1990’s. Lauber recalled the incident and said how frightened he was at being held down and brutalized. Lauber said “It was horrible. It’s something I have thought a lot about since then.” This weakens the no harm, no foul rationalization.

Expect major excuses for the adolescent Romney in the days to follow.

Mainstream media will be conflicted between two favorite themes — politics and school bullying. I predict politics wins. Romney will not be branded a bully. His adult behavior will be distanced from his adolescent aggressive proclivities, despite what is known by developmental psychology. He will be said to have “evolved.” He will be portrayed as a nice guy who wouldn’t hurt a fly. But John Lauber died in 2004, unable to tell his story, was not a fly.

Watch the TV anchors (Muir and Diane Sawyer) squirm to protect Romney’s image at the end of the clip.

And these headlines take Romney’s non-apology for something it is not.
The New York Times: Romney Apologizes For Bullying In Prep School, Says He Didn’t Know Victim Was Gay

and the Huffington Post: Romney Apologizes For Bullying In Prep School, Says He Didn’t Know Victim Was Gay

at least the Washington Post hinted about negativity with its headline: Mitt Romney’s Prep School Classmates Recall Pranks, but Also Troubling Incidents

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This entry was posted on Friday, May 11th, 2012 at 11:26 am and is filed under Fairness & Social Justice Denied, Related Phenomena. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.



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  1. Lisa Abbott Mott says:

    Please don’t politicize the message of the anit-workplace bullying campaign to suit your own political aganda.  Stay on message.  Anyone can be a bully, even Obama.  It takes courage to admit you were wrong.  That is something a real bully won’t do.  Keep this cause out of the presidential campaign.  It would be better if you expose real bulllies like the ones who show up picketing at young soldiers’ funerals who were killed in combat serving the cause of freedom.  

    • bullyinginstitute says:

      Bullying is a political act. Those who feel entitled shamelessly to degrade those they consider lesser than themselves. The power aspect comes to the front. I was careful to present the information reported by others. Nowhere did WBI call Romney a bully.  It was the witness to the Cranbrook incident who is now an attorney who described the incident as “assault and battery” and “supreme bullying.” Because of this, it matters little that the assailant is a current presidential candidate. To educate people about bullying — that the victim and perpetrators were adversely affected by the act — is always the goal. We stay on message even when extrapolating the aspects of bullying to incidents that explode in the national press. That’s how we can shed light.

      My analysis was to then capture the reaction of the media to the story. The story after the story.

      It’s not my politics. Personally, I’m not the Obama supporter you guess I am.

    • Gary Namie says:

        Bullying
      is a political act. Those who feel entitled shamelessly to degrade
      those they consider lesser than themselves. The power aspect comes to
      the front. I was careful to present the information reported by others.
      Nowhere did WBI call Romney a bully.  It was the witness to the
      Cranbrook incident who is now an attorney who described the incident as
      “assault and battery” and “supreme bullying.” Because of this, it
      matters little that the assailant is a current presidential candidate.
      To educate people about bullying — that the victim and perpetrators
      were adversely affected by the act — is always the goal. We stay on
      message even when extrapolating the aspects of bullying to incidents
      that explode in the national press. That’s how we can shed light.

      My analysis was to then capture the reaction of the media to the story. The story after the story.

      It’s not my politics. Personally, I’m not the Obama supporter you guess I am.

      • Cuppajo2002 says:

        I can appreciate your cause. That is why I regularly support efforts to stop workplace bullying. Lately, however, I have noticed quite a number of alliances with unions and lawyers. As we all know, just because a person is an attorney doesn’t mean their veracity can not be questioned or challenged. It seems that this story has died a quick death…
        Someday, there will be a law to protect individuals from bullies in the workplace, and it will prevent some individuals from torturing good, hardworking people. I think your cause is worthy, but I also think unions are part of the problem. I know of specific cases where the bullies were union reps in their workplace! It is a growing and disturbing issue.

  2. Bully Apologists Rally to Excuse Adolescent Romney says:

    [...] Workplace Bullying Institute [...]

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