May 10th, 2012
04:55 PM ET
10 years ago

Romney apologizes for high school 'teasing'

(CNN) – Mitt Romney apologized for any "teasing or taunts" he carried out in high school that others deemed offensive and possibly homophobic, following a Thursday news article that included first hand accounts from his time at an all-boys prep school.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee said he did not specifically remember two incidents described in the Washington Post story, but said other student's sexual orientation was "the furthest thing from our minds in the 1960s."

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"As to the teasing or taunts that go on in high school, that's a long time ago," Romney said on Brian Kilmeade's radio show Thursday. "If there's anything I said that was offensive to someone I certainly am sorry about that, very deeply sorry about that but there was no harm intended."

Asked about the incident by CNN at a campaign event in Omaha, Nebraska, Romney did not respond, but he did in an interview later in the afternoon. The candidate repeated that he did not remember the event, but had done "some stupid things in high school," and offered his apology to anyone who had been hurt if the alleged incident did take place.

"I don't recall the incident but I am seeing the reports and I will not argue with that," he said on Fox News. "And, obviously if I hurt anyone by virtue of that I would be very sorry and apologize for it."

Kilmeade specifically referenced an incident recounted in the story in which a fellow student at the prestigious Cranbrook School in Michigan was pinned down and his hair cut by a group of boys, including Romney. The student had bleached-blond hair draped over one eye, a different look than sported by other students.

He also described an anecdote in the Post story from a former classmate and closeted gay man at the time, who said Romney would respond to comments he made by saying "atta girl."

Although Romney said he didn't remember that, he added the term is often used at a boy's school.

"People say 'hey, atta girl," Romney explained. "But as this person indicated, he was closeted I had no idea he was gay."

In a statement to the Post, spokeswoman Andrea Saul said: "Anyone who knows Mitt Romney knows that he doesn't have a mean-spirited bone in his body."

"The stories of fifty years ago seem exaggerated and off base and Governor Romney has no memory of participating in these incidents," she said.

Romney's campaign distributed statements from two of his former high school classmates on Thursday afternoon, including one from John French, who said, "Mitt never had a malicious bone in his body – trying to imply or characterize him as a bully is absurd."

Former classmate Richard Moon said Romney was "a thoughtful guy with a great sense of humor."

"He had a good perspective on how to balance all the pressures high school students face," Moon said. "He would never go out and do anything mean spirited. Clownish, yes. Never mean."

Ann Romney often says her husband was a prankster in high school, when the two began dating. And in Thursday's interview the former Massachusetts governor partially credited his wife of 42 years with his growth since high school, a point almost made in the Post article.

"I became a very different person as I met Ann and then as I went off and served as a missionary for my church," Romney said. "I mean there are elements in life that change you, and I'm a very different person than I was in high school of course."

"There are going to be some who want to talk about high school," he added. "It's like if you really think that's important be my guest."

Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney
soundoff (82 Responses)
  1. jtt

    C'mom guys!!! I am a Democrat and I know President Obama will and deserve to be reelected, but I don't think we should attack Romney because of this. This was a long time ago and we all do stupid things in High School. I have done things I regret doing because I wasn't as mature as I am now. I know Republicans went after Obama for eating Dog meat when he was a CHILD, but we shouldn't lower ourselves to their level.

    May 10, 2012 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  2. MeyeK

    This "better-than-you" behavior is reinforced by Romney's other condescending comments towards others: pointing out the inexpensive ponchos worn at a NASCAR race, joking that he's also "out of work" to someone who is really unemployed, and insulting the cookies someone brought him by asking if they were purchased at a 7-11. He is completely out of touch.

    May 10, 2012 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  3. Jim Massey

    Does this mean that we expect our politicians to be perfect from the time they come out of the womb until now? If the media continues to make these things an issue then we are heading for a disaster in which no one wants to step out as a potential leader for the country.

    May 10, 2012 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  4. TommyTT

    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.

    May 10, 2012 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  5. dizzylucy

    Everyone has done stupid things in their childhood, but based on the description of this incident, it sounds like much more than silly pranks or hijinks – and it's not something you'd easily forget.
    This isn't a career-ending revelation, but just another item in a growing list of negative aspects.

    A politician without a mean bone in his body? No such thing exists. They'd be in the wrong business if that were the case.

    May 10, 2012 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  6. California Gary

    My experience has been that a bully as a kid remains a bully as an adult. This story just goes to explain why Romney has no trouble "firing" people, shutting down companies, and sending jobs overseas in order to realize a nice personal profit. In the mind of a bully, its all about getting what they want and everyone else can just jump in the lake. It also explains his behavior in steamrolling his competitors in the primaries. Once a bully, always a bully.

    May 10, 2012 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  7. cigarman

    I am not condoning anything that Romney did while in high school, but I think that bringing all of that up now is pitiful. I think that what the Republicans say about Obama is Pitiful. People definitely change throughout the years, most of the time, for the best. It probably would not be the best story if I told you about some of the Pranks and other things I did as a youngster. I certainly am not going to vote for Romney or any other Republican, Not because of what they did when they were younger, BUT for what they are doing as they grow older.

    May 10, 2012 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
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