The Washington Post's Romney hit piece comes apart


The Washington Post was already skating on thin ice with its fantastically convenient hit piece on Mitt Romney, published in perfect synchronization with President Obama’s embrace of gay marriage.  Designed to paint Romney as a mean-spirited homophobic bully during his prep school days – which, let us remember, occurred over seventeen thousand days ago – the ridiculously bloated and overly-dramatic 5000-word Post “expose” related the story of how Romney allegedly led a gang of high-school hooligans and forcibly cut the hair of a “presumably gay” fellow student named John Lauber.

The piece does a great deal of mind-reading to insinuate homophobia, and in an amazing set of concluding paragraphs, heavily implies that Romney essentially murdered this poor kid with his scissors – it just took his body four decades to collapse around his broken spirit.  John Lauber died of liver cancer in 2004, an even the Post dramatically contrasts with Romney accepting the Distinguished Alumni award from the Cranbrook prep school, concluding with a melancholy salute to Lauber’s hair, which he never stopped bleaching blond.

The Post based this hit on testimony from five men who “mostly lean Democratic,” including one who was a volunteer for the 2008 Obama campaign.  No one else seems able remember the incident taking place.

Including, as it turns out, both a friend of Romney’s that the Post openly and fraudulently asserted had “long been bothered” by the haircut hazing… and the “victim’s” own family.

Romney friend Stu White dropped the first bombshell on the Washington Post’s phony story, telling ABC News “he was not present for the prank, in which Romney is said to have forcefully cut a student’s long hair, and was not aware of it until this year when he was contacted by the Washington Post.”  The assertion that he was “long bothered” by Romney’s alleged display of full-contact barbering was entirely false, and there is no way to claim it was not a deliberately false impression inserted into the Post story, since they knew perfectly well that they are the ones who told White about it, just a few weeks ago.

Much worse for the Post was a statement released by John Lauber’s sister Betsy, which reads, in full: “The family of John Lauber is releasing a statement saying the portrayal of John is factually incorrect and we are aggrieved that he would be used to further a political agenda. There will be no more comments from the family.” 

Wow.  Just… wow.  The Post apparently didn’t bother clearing their smear job with the victim’s family, even though they interviewed both Christine and Betsy Lauber for the piece.  They thought they were contributing to a respectful tribute, not an ugly partisan hit. 

Christine Lauber told ABC News that her brother never mentioned the allegedly life-destroying traumatic incident related by the Washington Post, and “probably wouldn’t have said anything” even if something like it did happen, because he presumably was not the fragile character he has been portrayed as.  Furthermore, she tearfully insisted that “if he were still alive today, he would be furious” over the Post story.

But wait!  This gets worse.  Someone at the Post apparently panicked after Stu White spilled the beans to ABC News, because they committed one of the greatest sins in journalism: they quietly edited the Romney hit piece without publishing a retraction, as requested in writing.  The false statement about Stu White has been changed to read as follows:

“I always enjoyed his pranks,” said Stu White, a popular friend of Romney’s who went on to a career as a public school teacher and said he has been “disturbed” by the Lauber incident since hearing about it several weeks ago, before being contacted by The Washington Post.  “But I was not the brunt of any of his pranks.”

This was a colossally stupid move on the Post’s part.  How often do people have to be reminded that the Internet never forgets?  That caches and screen grabs of dishonestly edited material rest comfortably in the hands of media watchdogs?

ABC mentions that some other, as yet nameless, classmates of Romney are eager to dish dirt on his teenage misbehavior, although no one seems ready to corroborate the Lauber hair hazing incident.  That effort will misfire badly, and solidify support for Romney from a public sick unto death of attempts to distract from Barack Obama’s record in office. 

They’re almost equally sick of journalistic double standards.  They’ve been hearing for years that even the most reasonable inquiry into Obama’s shadowy past – even simple requests for ordinary documentation – are completely out of bounds, and can only be motivated by racial animosity.  But now they’re supposed to sit still while a bunch of 60-year-olds are trotted out to reminisce about what a handful Mitt Romney was, during his school days in 1965?  All because Obama hatchet man David Axelrod needs to spin a campaign narrative that plugs into the “gay marriage” and “bullying” crusade? 

At this point, the most interesting “journalism” remaining to be done on the Teen Mitt haircut incident is determining whether Axelrod was directly involved in crafting the Post story.  Does anyone want to leak some internal emails so we can get the ball rolling, and find out if there were direct, documentable ties to the Obama campaign?  Or did the Post cook this up on their own, taking the initiative to offer journalistic support after being told the Obama gay marriage flip-flop was coming, with one eye fixed nervously on the President’s cratering poll numbers?  This is already the most spectacular case of journalistic malpractice since George Zimmerman became the world’s pre-eminent “white Hispanic.”  Let’s take this baby into the stratosphere and leave some chemtrails!

It’s really interesting the way the Washington Post chose to end their article, by noting that Romney received an alumni award just a year after John Lauber’s untimely death.  You know what happened a year before Lauber lost his battle against liver cancer?  A boat carrying a family of four, two friends, and the family’s dog sprang a leak on Lake Winnipesaukee, dumping them into the dark waters of early evening, and leaving them to howl in terror as other boats zipped around them.  Mitt Romney and two of his sons happened to be vacationing in the area.  They jumped onto jet skis and raced to the rescue.  Governor Romney was pulled off his jet ski at one point.  They even saved the dog, a Scottish terrier.

A couple of years before that, Romney performed a similar rescue for a group of kayakers who were shoved onto hard rocks by fierce winds.

In 1996, the fourteen-year-old daughter of a Bain Capital partner was kidnapped.  When Mitt Romney learned of this, he shut down the entire multi-million dollar firm and flew the entire staff to New York, so they could help look for the girl.  Romney hired private detectives, set up a toll-free tip line, coordinated with the NYPD, papered the streets with fliers, contacted every Bain customer in the city, and personally hit the bricks with the Bain crew to join the search.  They found her, just in the nick of time – she was dying from an overdose of drugs in a New Jersey basement.  She was only rescued because someone saw news coverage of Romney’s search efforts.

Thirty years earlier, Mitt Romney was a high school student who may, or may not, have been slightly more of a jerk than the average teenage boy.  How’s that for an “evolution?”  Why on Earth would any reasonable person think his high school misadventures tell us more about his character than his deeds later in life?

Update: After enduring a day of pounding for their stealth edit, the Post added this editor’s note to the bottom of the Romney piece: “An earlier version of this story reported that White ‘has long been bothered’ by the Lauber incident. White later clarified in a subsequent interview that he has been disturbed by the incident since he learned of it several weeks ago from a former classmate, before being contacted by The Washington Post.”

Horsefeathers.  White didn’t “clarify” anything in a “subsequent interview.”  The Post author invented that false assertion out of thin air.