Romney's former classmate: 'You have to take it into account'
May 11th, 2012
09:29 AM ET
6 years ago

Romney's former classmate: 'You have to take it into account'

Washington (CNN) - Phillip Maxwell wishes he had done something to stop it.

Maxwell, a Michigan attorney, is still haunted by what he claims he witnessed on the campus of the state's elite Cranbrook School in 1965: a young Mitt Romney and a group of friends holding down a classmate named John Lauber and cutting off chunks of his long hair.

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"It was not an event you take a lot of pride in. And it was that way for all of us," Maxwell told CNN.

Maxwell confirmed the story, first reported in the Washington Post. However, he insisted the incident was far worse than a high school prank.

"I'm a lawyer. I know what an assault is. This kid was scared. He was terrified. That's an assault," Maxwell said.

Romney said in an interview with Fox News Radio he does not recall the incident described in the Post article. But the former Massachusetts governor acknowledged he engaged in pranks that "might have gone too far" and apologized for any harm done during his time at Cranbrook.

"Back in high school, I did some dumb things, and if anybody was hurt by that or offended, obviously I apologize for that," Romney said.

Maxwell told CNN he is disappointed in Romney's response to the story.

"He says he doesn't remember it and I find it difficult to believe," Maxwell said in a telephone interview.

"It's unfortunate that Mitt simply hasn't owned up to his behavior," he added.

Maxwell, who told ABC News he is a registered independent who has voted for both Democrats and Republicans, said the episode is "relevant" in the campaign as a window into Romney's character.

"I guess you have to take it into account. Are you the kind of person who would stop the abuse of an innocent person?" Maxwell asked.

In an interview on a separate topic for the June issue of Automobile Magazine, however, Maxwell said he will not be casting his ballot for Romney, though added praise for the candidate.

"I'm a Democrat, so I won't vote for him," says Maxwell. "But he'd probably make a pretty good president. He's very smart, very principled.

To this day, Maxwell regrets he will never have the chance to make amends with Lauber who, according to the Post, died in 2004.

"I wish I could have apologized to him," Maxwell said.

Lauber's family said they were "aggrieved that John would be used to further a political agenda," according to a statement obtained by The New York Times.

Late Thursday, the Romney campaign provided statements from other former classmates of the GOP contender.

"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. He would never go out and do anything mean spirited. Clownish, yes. Never mean," Richard Moon, one ex-classmate said in the statement furnished by the campaign.

"Mitt never had a malicious bone in his body – trying to imply or characterize him as a bully is absurd," John French, another former classmate, said in another statement released by Romney's staff.

Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said French "wasn't involved in incident and doesn't remember it happening." She did not elaborate on the statement issued by Moon.

Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney
soundoff (94 Responses)
  1. S.S

    Phillip Maxwell thanks!! you just confirmed that Romney is a long time warrior a character which United States needs urgently. We don't need another President when faced with a problem folds up like a cheap China made umbrella during hailstorm. We want a guy who can stick it to the world!!

    May 11, 2012 01:34 am at 1:34 am |
  2. Thomas

    I was a year ahead of Mitt at what was then called Cranbrook School for Boys. Either the hair incident happened while he was a senior, or it didn't happen in anything like the way it has been described. It's not in character for the Mitt I knew. The Republican party has made a career out of swift-boating their opponents. I'm disappointed to see some Democrats trying out the same cheap strategy.

    Tommy , first of all this is not Swift Boating . And to suggest so would be for the purpose of spinning the allegations .
    Romney admits he did bad things , he just can't remember this incident.

    Obviously " Lord of the Fly's " wasn't required reading at Cranbrook !

    May 11, 2012 01:41 am at 1:41 am |
  3. Indyswimmer66

    Just what we need... another mean-spirited, bully prankster like Bush!

    May 11, 2012 02:09 am at 2:09 am |
  4. n2video

    D amn right it was an assault. And Romney's non-apology apology was weak-kneed and useless. Any time the phrase, "If I offended anyone" is used during an apology, it's NOT an apology. Romney even had the cajones to say that he does not recall the incident. LIAR!! Anyone who pins down a victim and cuts his hair while the victim is crying out for his father is NEVER going to forget that incident. Romney is the lowest of the low.

    May 11, 2012 02:12 am at 2:12 am |
  5. Donkey Party

    Romney is a terrible liar. As much as he lies, you'd think he'd be better at it by now.

    May 11, 2012 02:16 am at 2:16 am |
  6. The Left Wing

    Romney's claim that he doesn't remember does not pass the smell test. It means one of three things. He did this kind of thing a lot, he is lying, or he has memory problems that cast serious doubt on his ability to be President.

    May 11, 2012 02:18 am at 2:18 am |
  7. Angel

    Kids do dumb things. However, what is so awful about Romney is his lying of not being able to remember these incidents. He has no remorse or sense of guilt for past wrongs. His behavior is just downright sociopathic in nature. And, the possibility of this guy being elected as president is frightening.

    May 11, 2012 03:01 am at 3:01 am |
  8. gung hoe

    So does It matter that one of the men comeing forward worked on obamas campaign in 08.Geez cant imagine why that guy would come forward now,with the gay issue takeing front and center stage!

    May 11, 2012 03:20 am at 3:20 am |
  9. winstonsmith


    Same s- was said about Bush back in 2000. Sociopaths have it easiest for gaining office, and usually when they do, things get worse for the rest of us.

    May 11, 2012 03:45 am at 3:45 am |
  10. Nora

    That's not the sort of thing you would just not remember though. If someone accused me of having done that in high school, I would outright deny it – because I know I wasn't the sort of person who would do anything even remotely like that. Using the "don't recall" line on something that big doesn't ring true, it sounds like he just doesn't want to be accused of lying if it's proven.

    May 11, 2012 04:13 am at 4:13 am |
  11. Jolly

    God created everyone equal and no one should bully no one!! so whats next! Mitts should apologize for eating sweet potatoe when he was a five? Grow up left!

    May 11, 2012 04:48 am at 4:48 am |
  12. Tony

    It was 1965. Romney was in high school. The Civil Right Act was passed one year earlier, banning discrimination against blacks and women. There was not a civil right movement for gays. What Romney did to a suspected gay classmate was not right, but it is time to let bygones be bygones. We should judge Romney by what he has done as an adult: his work at Bain Capital, his record as Massachusetts governor, and his positions on issues.

    May 11, 2012 05:14 am at 5:14 am |
  13. Orwell reports

    "Romney repeatedly clipped his hair with a pair of scissors." while the victim was held down by accomplices.
    Romney said in an interview with Fox News Radio he does not recall the incident described in the Post article.

    Mitt the Liar, or just a small thing that slipped mitt's mind? Surprise, Fox News has the same problem.

    May 11, 2012 05:53 am at 5:53 am |
  14. Rob

    Mitt foreign policy: If you don't follow international law, I'll have NATO hold you down while I cut your hair.

    May 11, 2012 06:02 am at 6:02 am |
  15. Don

    It was a different time. Mitt was one of the "cool rich kids. He still is and tat's the bigger problem. He's the kid that always got away with it. that's why he doesn't see anything unusual with tying a dof to the top of a car and taking a long trip.

    May 11, 2012 06:06 am at 6:06 am |
  16. clarence pridgen

    He does not remember bullying incidents in high school.Really? Most of us would never forget assaulting another person unless it was what we did all the time. Unbelievable

    May 11, 2012 06:08 am at 6:08 am |

    CNN leaves out the fact that the kid was gay, and Mitt McCain led a mob to attack him.

    May 11, 2012 06:09 am at 6:09 am |
  18. Anne S.

    It's kind of ridiculous whne they hve to report something like this on a candidate. Gee, why don't we go back to when he was in kindergarten too. Or maybe a time when he wet his diaper? At least one thing we know he grew up in Michigan. To me this is just pointless.

    May 11, 2012 06:14 am at 6:14 am |
  19. O.T.

    OK, so CNN is going to attack Romney with stories of how he may have made a few comments that today we know are offending when he was a teenage boy in the 1960s. Yet, the fact that Obama sat in a church every week a listened to anti-American minister, his self-described mentor, bash the U.S. as late as 2007 or 2008, when he was in his forties, and this is never mentioned by CNN.

    May 11, 2012 06:15 am at 6:15 am |
  20. DaninNH

    Romney doesn't remember this incident?? Any normal person would – it's not small potatoes. It's not huge either, hair grows back. What's significant here is Romney is lying instead of owning up to his participation. That speaks to his character far more than his involvement in a bit of an over-the-top high school prank. Once again, rich guy does what advances himself irrespective of what that means/does to others.

    May 11, 2012 06:23 am at 6:23 am |
  21. Orwell reports

    Bishop Governor Willard Mittens Romney:
    1) a likable bully named Mitt,
    2) an experienced corporate liquidator clearing out deadbeats, operating as Willard the negotiator,
    3) a flip-flop etch-a-sketch artist, the former pro/anti-gay guv of Massachusetts,
    3) a high religious official who deserves and must be ordained as POTUS,

    "All hail the Chief & first Bishop from Republistan!" or you will be held down and cut to size.

    May 11, 2012 06:24 am at 6:24 am |
  22. george

    Typical GOP bully. I am not surprised.

    May 11, 2012 06:35 am at 6:35 am |
  23. JD

    Wow. So the Dems are finally realizing that they might lose because O shot his political same-sex marriage wad too early. Let's see, what was Romney doing 47 years ago?.....

    May 11, 2012 06:35 am at 6:35 am |
  24. acdcguy

    "Maxwell, a Michigan attorney, is still haunted "??? from 47yrs ago? for this? Give me you dems are really reaching now. Keep it up though, it's quite amusing.........

    May 11, 2012 06:38 am at 6:38 am |
  25. JustMe

    Was this high school? I'm no Romney fan but I hardly think we all should be judged on something we did as a teenager, in terms of our 'character' 40 some years later. A single incident does not define you. I would hate to think I would be judged now for something thoughtless I did as a teen.

    May 11, 2012 06:40 am at 6:40 am |
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