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Mitt Romney apologizes for the ‘dumb things’ he did in prep school

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Mitt Romney (Charles Krupa/AP)

Mitt Romney has apologized for incidents described in a Washington Post story about his prep school years in Michigan. Some of the events include forcibly cutting a boy's bleached-blond hair and hassling a closeted gay student in English class.

"Back in high school, I did some dumb things," Romney said in an interview on the "Kilmeade and Friends" talk show on Fox News radio Thursday. "And if anybody was hurt by that or offended by that, I apologize." He added: "There is no question I became a very different person since then."

Romney emphasized that he had no idea the boy was gay. "I certainly don't believe that I thought the fellow was homosexual," said Romney in the radio interview. "That was the furthest thing from our minds back in the 1960s." 

According to the Washington Post, which conducted interviews with the presidential candidate's former classmates at the Cranbrook School in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Romney forcibly cut the "bleached-blond hair that draped over one eye" of a "soft-spoken" new kid because he felt the boy didn't belong. The story is a 5,400-word profile of Romney's formative years; the incident occurred in 1965.

"He can't look like that," an "incensed" Romney told one of his friends upon seeing John Lauber's hair, according to the friend's account. "That's wrong. Just look at him!"

A few days later in a dorm room, several other students pinned down Lauber—who was "perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality"—while the presumptive Republican nominee "clipped his hair with a pair of scissors." A "terrified" Lauber was crying and screaming, according to the paper.

"It was a hack job," Phillip Maxwell, a student who witnessed the incident, told the Post. "It was vicious." Lauber died in 2004.

Romney also chided another student presumed to be gay, wrote the Post:

In an English class, Gary Hummel, who was a closeted gay student at the time, recalled that his efforts to speak out in class were punctuated with Romney shouting, "Atta girl!" In the culture of that time and place, that was not entirely out of the norm. Hummel recalled some teachers using similar language.

According to his campaign, Romney doesn't recall the incidents.

"Anyone who knows Mitt Romney knows that he doesn't have a mean-spirited bone in his body," Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in a statement to the Post. "The stories of fifty years ago seem exaggerated and off base and Governor Romney has no memory of participating in these incidents."

It's worth noting that the Romney campaign, itself, is notorious for its pranks.

On April 1, Romney's campaign staff scheduled a speech for the former Massachusetts governor in a completely empty room.

"I think they're much funnier when I do them on other people than when they do them on me," Romney later said of the prank, captured by a campaign staffer on video. "But this was very good. This was classic."

Eric Fehrnstrom, a senior adviser to the Romney campaign, recently told the Hill that Romney is a "closet prankster." When Romney was governor, a state trooper on his security detail "short-sheeted" the bed in his hotel room, Fehrnstrom said. Romney retaliated by composing a fake letter from the hotel that said the maid staff had been fired.

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