The Washington Post on Friday found itself the subject of growing criticism for running an article on Mitt Romney’s high school pranks, including one in which he allegedly hacked off a fellow student's long, bleached hair while the boy was being held down by school bullies.
The Post piece implied that the Romney incident had haunted the student, John Lauber. Thirty years later he bumped into a witness to the event and described it as "horrible."
Lauber died of liver cancer in 2004. His family attacked the article. His sister Christine told ABC News that she knew nothing about the bullying incident and that the story had factual inaccuracies.
“If he were alive today, he would be furious,” she said. “Even if it did happen, John probably wouldn’t have said anything.”
Betsy Lauber, another of John’s sisters, said the family was upset the incident, that allegedly happened 47 years ago in 1965, from is being used to further a political agenda.
It wasn't just family members who were left scratching their heads at why the Post would have dug up a story from the dim and distant past. The New York Post, in an editorial, said the Washington paper has revealed itself as complicit in efforts to distract voters from real issues like the economy.
“Let’s assume it’s true: As Romney himself noted, teens sometimes do stupid things, and he’s no exception," wrote the Big Apple tabloid.
"Nor, we suspect, are most people who’ve run for president — and been elected. Take Barack Obama, for example. The Washington Post and most other mainstream news outlets haven’t devoted 5,500 words to dissecting selected moments from his boyhood.”
The New York Post slammed the Washington paper for ”laboring so mightily to construct a huge mountain from such a tiny molehill,” and warns that the story “points up why many potentially top-notch candidates decline to seek the presidency — or even to enter public life in the first place. The notion that one’s entire life can — and will — be subjected to microscopic deconstruction, and the results hysterically magnified, would give anyone pause.”
“Shame on The Washington Post,” the editorial concludes.
Ben Shapiro, writing on Breitbart.com pointed out that the Post had quietly changed its own story after it had claimed that Stu White, a high school friend of Romney’s, had long been bothered by the Lauber incident. White told ABC News that he had not been present and had not been aware of it.
"It was irresponsible of the Post to run the hit piece in the first place, especially given its obvious bias; to retract a critical phrase and replace it without noting the retraction is just as bad," wrote Shapiro, who called the piece “unconscionable.”
Other conservative figures have also hit out against the Washington Post. Rush Limbaugh called the article "a biased hit piece," commenting “The Washington Post can find out what Mitt Romney was doing 50 years ago in high school but they still can’t be bothered to find Barack Obama’s transcripts at Columbia and Harvard?”
Limbaugh also referenced Obama’s admission that he had tried cocaine as a young man.
Erick Erickson in Redstate.com posted a list of things the media still doesn’t know about Obama. “I guess we won’t hear the left whining anymore when we mention Barack Obama eating a dog, since, as they are quick to point out, he was a kid when it happened.”
According to an obituary that appeared in the South Bend Tribune at the time of his death, Lauber led a full life, graduating from Vanderbilt and becoming a member of the British Horse Society. He earned seaman papers, was licensed in three states as mortician and was the head chef at the Russian River Resort in California. He also served as a civilian contractor in Iraq.
Romney maintains that he does not recall the incident and insists he had “no idea” if his classmate was gay.
The presumptive candidate did not blame his political rivals for the story, but told Fox News that he expects supporters of President Obama to wave "shiny objects" in the air between now and November to distract from the economy and other issues in the campaign.
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