WASHINGTON (AP) — Mitt Romney on Thursday countered the notion that he bullied high school classmates and insisted he didn't know some were gay.
The Republican presidential candidate apologized to anyone he may have offended by what he said were "hijinks and pranks during high school." His comments in a hastily arranged radio interview followed a Washington Post report Thursday that he had held down classmate John Lauber and cut off his bleached blond hair when they were classmates at a prestigious boarding school in the wealthy Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
The Post suggested Lauber was bullied because he was gay.
"The people involved didn't come out of the closet until years later," Romney told a Fox News radio show. "I had no idea that this person might have been gay."
"I participated in a lot of hijinks and pranks during high school and some may have gone too far. And for that I apologize," Romney added.
The report and Romney's defense come as his inconsistent record on gay-rights — though iron-clad opposition to gay unions — is coming under scrutiny following President Barack Obama's embrace of same-sex marriage. He defended some gay rights when he ran for governor of Massachusetts but was a leading voice against gay marriage when courts made it legal in the state.
The Post report cites five classmates of Romney's at Cranbrook School recounting details of Romney's encounter with Lauber, whose bleached blond hair fell into his face. Romney led a group of boys that tackled Lauber. Romney cut off his hair with scissors as Lauber's eyes were "filling with tears," according to the Post.
The paper also recounted another incident where Romney shouted "atta girl" at a different student who, years later, came out as gay.
Romney was asked about Lauber during the radio interview. "I don't remember that incident," he said. "I certainly don't believe that I thought the fellow was homosexual. That was the furthest thing from our minds back in the 1960s."