Entries in Bullying (7)


Maxwell Brothers’ Tales of Romney at Cranbrook Differ

Scott Olson/Getty Images(GROSSE POINT FARMS, Mich.) — As the accusations of bullying continued to follow Mitt Romney on the campaign trail, another former friend and classmate of the presumptive GOP nominee said it was a “shock” to hear the stories and it wasn’t the friend he knew, describing Romney as more of a prankster than a bully.

“I would say the pranking would ring true, but the bullying was just a shock to me,” Peter Maxwell told ABC News.

In a twist, it was Maxwell’s own brother Philip who joined four other men who described a troubling incident they said they witnessed, in a story first reported by the Washington Post.

The Maxwell brothers both graduated from the prestigious Cranbrook School in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Peter in 1964, one year before his brother Phillip and Romney.

Phillip Maxwell and the four others recounted a story of Romney as a teenager cutting the hair of a student presumed to be gay while he was pinned to the ground.

Phillip Maxwell called it a “haunting memory” in an interview with ABC News and said it was a “hack job” with “clumps” of the boy’s “hair taken off.” Phillip Maxwell even called the boys, himself included, a “pack of dogs.”

Following Phillip’s account, his brother Peter is now coming forward with his own description of Mitt Romney as a high school student.

“For Mitt to be a bully just shocks me. We grew up with him. He was the kind of a guy who would bend over backwards to do something for you and would go out of his way to help people and for him to be characterized as a bully would be the farthest thing from the truth,” Maxwell said.

Peter Maxwell describes himself as a Republican and said he voted for Romney in the Michigan primary in February and said he will vote for him in November.

Peter Maxwell said the incident, which he says Phillip didn’t reveal to him until a month ago, is surprising but something to be taken into the context of the time. He also said he saw Cranbrook as quite accepting, with students of all religions and cultures, calling it a “mix bag.”

Phillip Maxwell, who told ABC News he votes for both Republicans and Democrats, said he was there, describing the incident differently.

“When you see somebody who is simply different taken down that way and is terrified and you see that look in their eye you never forget it. And that was what we all walked away with,” Phillip Maxwell said.

In what now appears to have become a debate within their own family, Peter Maxwell said his brother, with whom he speaks with frequently, has a tendency to “expound on things.”

“He kind of gets into the emotions of a situation or a moment in time and loves to expound on things,” Peter Maxwell said of his brother. “I’m not necessarily saying exaggerate, but wants to take things to a higher level and he made a comment the other day, ‘Oh God, today they would consider that almost  assault and battery.’ And I said, ‘You sound like a prosecutor in Northern Michigan.’ … I  said, ‘Come on, ‘What really was it?’ And he said, ‘The kid had long hair and it wasn’t really what people were into at the time.’ And I said, ‘Let’s kind of look at it that way. Let’s not make it a national media event for an incident that happened in 1965.’”

When asked about the other men who described the incident in a similar way, Peter Maxwell acknowledged he had already graduated and was not there, but still believed it was a prank and not bullying.

The charge of “assault and battery” is something Phillip Maxwell brought up as well with ABC News and said that as a lawyer it is how he now sees it.

The brothers clearly have different views of the incident.

Peter Maxwell said Romney liked to pull pranks, something the Romney campaign and even his wife Ann have liked to mention on the trail, but he stressed that he saw the pranks as never “mean spirited.” Maxwell recalled a culture of pranking and worse, including drag racing and underage drinking, but stressed “gay bashing” and bullying was something he never saw.

“He always had a little bit of twinkle in his eye and always, ‘OK, maybe we can make a joke out of this,” Peter Maxwell said, referring to Romney.

“I just don’t think it was a gay bashing moment. I think it was more like, ‘Let’s cut this kid’s hair. He doesn’t fit the Cranbrook profile,” Maxwell said.

When asked if he believed it was possible that Romney didn’t  remember the incident when it was so seared into the memory of others, Peter Maxwell, who does not remember the boy in question, called it a “lapse of convenience,” but also noted how “busy” Romney has been over the last “50 years.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Romney Supports Gay Adoption, Doesn’t Recall Bullying Incident

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Mitt Romney expressed support for gay adoption on Thursday, calling it “fine” and noting that it’s legal in his home state of Massachusetts.  But he again stressed his opposition to same-sex marriage and his preference for every child to have a mother and a father. 

Also in the interview, he said he didn’t recall an incident in which he reportedly bullied a student presume to be gay.

On the marriage issue, he told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto, “I believe marriage has been defined the same way for literally thousands of years by virtually every civilization in history and that marriage is literally by its definition a relationship between a man and a woman.  And that if two people of the same gender want to live together, want to have a loving relationship and even want to adopt a child, in my state individuals of the same sex were able to adopt children.  In my view that’s something that people have the right to do, but to call that marriage is, in my view, a departure of the real meaning of that word.”

The presumptive GOP nominee said it is his “preference” to have a “national standard that defined marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman.”

“That would then allow states to determine what rights would be provided for people of the same gender who wanted to have a relationship,” Romney said.  “There could be domestic partnership benefits, for instance, where one state might decide to provide hospital visitation rights, another state might decide to provide that as well as benefits of other kinds.”

On Wednesday, in an exclusive interview with ABC News’ Robin Roberts, President Obama announced his decision to support same-sex marriage.  Obama told Roberts his wife, Michelle, agrees with him.  On Thursday, Romney said his wife, Ann, agrees with his stance.

Cavuto also asked Romney about a Washington Post article that details a bullying incident on a student who was presumed to be gay.  The moment was recalled by several on-the-record sources.

“First of all, I had no idea what that individual’s sexual orientation might be, going back to the 1960s that wasn’t something that we all discussed or considered, so that’s simply just not accurate,” Romney said.  “I don’t recall the incident myself but I’ve seen the reports and I’m not going to argue with that.  There’s no question that I did some stupid things in high school, and obviously if I hurt anyone by virtue of that, I would be very sorry for it and apologize for it.”

He denied hearing from any of the other students involved in the incident since the story broke.

Romney said these other issues are being used by the Obama campaign as distractions from the economy and are designed to take the American voters’ “eye off the ball.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Sister of Alleged Romney Target Has ‘No Knowledge’ of Any Bullying Incident

ABC/ Ida Mae Astute(SOUTH BEND, Ind.) -- The older sister of Mitt Romney’s former high school classmate said she has no knowledge of any bullying incident involving her brother and the presumptive GOP presidential candidate.

Christine Lauber of South Bend, Ind., had not seen the Washington Post’s story that described an incident when Mitt Romney bullied her brother, but said she was aware of the story.

The incident centered around Romney allegedly holding the scissors to help cut the hair of John Lauber, who was presumed to be gay and who had long hair.

Romney’s former classmate, Phillip Maxwell, now a lawyer, described witnessing the incident and said he considered the “prank” the two pulled at Michigan’s Cranbrook School to be “assault and battery.”

Maxwell said he held the boy’s arm and leg, describing himself and his friends as a “pack of dogs.”

Christine Lauber, who is a few years older than John Lauber, was at college when the alleged incident happened, and said the brother and sister were “doing our own thing” at the time.

When ABC News showed her the story, Christine Lauber’s eyes welled up with tears and she became agitated. She also corrected the story, saying her brother was a boarder, not a day student. She described her brother as a “very unusual person.”

“He didn’t care about running with the peer group,” Christine Lauber said. “What’s wrong with that?”

Romney has since apologized for what he said were “pranks” in high school but has said he doesn’t remember the specific event.

Romney said “homosexuality was the furthest thing from his mind” when it came to the jokes he played on classmates.

“Even if it did happen, John probably wouldn’t have said anything,” Christine Lauber said.

She added she and her sisters will likely put out a statement later via a family attorney.

“If he were still alive today, he would be furious [about the story],” she said with tears in her eyes.

John Lauber died of liver cancer in 2004, according to the Washington Post.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Former Romney Classmate Describes ‘Bullying Supreme’ 

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A high school classmate of presidential candidate Mitt Romney told ABC News Thursday that he considers a particular prank pulled at Michigan’s Cranbrook school to be “assault and battery” and that he witnessed Romney hold the scissors to cut the hair of a student who was being physically pinned to the ground by several others.

“It’s a haunting memory.  I think it was for everybody that spoke up about it...because when you see somebody who is simply different taken down that way and is terrified and you see that look in their eye you never forget it.  And that was what we all walked away with,” said Phillip Maxwell, who is now an attorney and still considers Romney an old friend.

“I saw it with my own eyes,” said Maxwell of the anecdote first reported by the Washington Post.  Maxwell said Romney held the scissors helping to cut the hair of a student, John Lauber, who was presumed to be gay and who had long hair. “It was a hack job...clumps of hair taken off.”

Maxwell said he held the boy’s arm and leg, describing he and his friends as a “pack of dogs.”

Asked if Lauber was targeted because he was gay, as reported by the Post, Maxwell said, “We didn’t know that word in those days...but there were other words that were used. We weren’t ignorant, we just didn’t use the current names for things."

Romney has since apologized for what he said were “pranks” in high school but has said he doesn’t remember this specific event.  He added that “homosexuality was the furthest thing from his mind” when it came to the jokes he played on classmates.  

Asked if he has any doubt that what Romney did could be considered bullying, Maxwell responded, “Oh my God, are you kidding?...I castigated myself regularly for not having intervened.  I would have felt a lot better about myself had I said hey, enough.”

“When I saw the look on [Lauber’s] face, it was a look I’ll never forget,” said Maxwell. “When you see a victim, the sense of trust betrayed in this boy who was perfectly innocent for being different.”

“This was bullying supreme,” he said.

Maxwell told ABC News that he is a registered independent, generally votes for Democrats, but has voted Republican in the past. He said he would have voted for Romney’s father, George Romney, had he won the presidential nomination. He says he has not donated to President Obama, nor has he volunteered for him.

Maxwell said he believes the incident had to have some effect on Romney.

“I grew up with him.  We were best friends in elementary school.  We always remained friends.  Mitt is wonderful, very bright, an enormously energetic human being...a friend all my life, but this was a side of him that I hadn’t seen,” said Maxwell. He added that he believes this is relevant in a presidential campaign because it speaks to the “character” of Romney.

In response to the Post story, the Romney campaign Thursday released statements of two other students who attended Cranbrook with Romney.

“Mitt was a thoughtful guy with a great sense of humor who cared about his classmates.  He had a good perspective on how to balance all the pressures high school students face. He would never go out and do anything mean spirited. Clownish, yes.  Never mean,” said Richard Moon, a classmate of Romney’s.

“Mitt never had a malicious bone in his body -- trying to imply or characterize him as a bully is absurd.” said John French, another Cranbrook classmate.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Introduces Bullying Documentary on Cartoon Network

The White House/Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama opened up a 30-minute documentary on childhood bullying for Cartoon Network Sunday evening, continuing awareness initiatives he set into motion last year.

The minute-long introduction, which was pre-taped, featured the president speaking directly to the camera for the documentary titled To SPEAK UP Against Bullying.

“Bullying is not a rite of passage or harmless part of growing up,” Obama said.  “It’s wrong.  Its destructive and we can all prevent it.”

The president said that for him the issue is personal.

“I care about this issue deeply, not just as the president, but as a dad,” he said referring to his two daughters, Sasha and Malia.

Obama mentioned last year’s White House summit on bullying prevention in his opening remarks, adding that partnerships have been made “with schools and parents to raise awareness.”

According to the White House, an estimated 13 million students are bullied each year.

As he closed his remarks, Obama left viewers with a call to action to do more.

“Everyone has to take action against bullying,” he said.  “Everyone has an obligation to make our schools and our communities safer for all our kids.”

The commercial-free documentary, which extends the network’s social initiative Stop Bullying: Speak Up, aired on Cartoon Network across the country on Sunday at 5:30 p.m.

It featured a number of kids, mostly between the ages of 8 and 13, as well as a number of famous athletes, including tennis star Venus Williams, soccer goalie Hope Solo, extreme bike trickster Matt Wilhelm and Joey Logano, the youngest NASCAR champ.

The children spoke about their own bullying experiences and how to stand up to bullies.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Sen. Gillibrand Calls for Investigation of Military Hazing, Bullying

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A senator is calling on the U.S. Defense Department to conduct a system-wide review of alleged hazing incidents in the military, after eight soldiers in Afghanistan were charged in connection with the death of Army Pvt. Danny Chen, who apparently committed suicide in October.

Chen had told family and friends that he was the target of persistent racial taunts and abusive treatment by his comrades in arms.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, requested the investigation due to concern that Chen's death is a reflection of a larger problem of military hazing.

"I cannot imagine what [Chen's parents] are going through as they mourn the senseless loss of their son," Gillibrand said. "No soldier should have to mentally or physically fear another soldier. There is no room for discrimination and mistreatment in our military. We need to ensure that those responsible for this type of abuse are held accountable and we must take steps to prevent any more tragedies from happening."

"It is outrageous that any man or woman serving our country would be subject to discrimination or harassment," she wrote in a letter to Dr. Joanne Rooney, Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness.

The Army did not say whether the eight soldiers charged actually killed Chen or whether their mistreatment of Chen caused him to kill himself.

Minority advocates have long been concerned about the treatment of Asian Americans in the military. Asian-Americans make up about 5 percent of the U.S. population, but historically have stayed away from the military, making up less than 3 percent of all military recruits.

Chen was the second Asian American to die of apparent suicide in Afghanistan this year.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obamas Use Facebook To Preview Bullying Prevention Conference

The White House(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama and the first lady released a video on Facebook Wednesday, in advance of the conference on bullying prevention to be held Thursday.

The Obamas will convene students, parents, teachers, and others to the White House for the conference, which will "bring together communities from across the nation who have been affected by bullying as well as those who are taking action to address it," the White House said in announcing the summit.

"We want you to be a part of it," President Obama says in the Facebook video of Thursday’s meetings.

"We'll be talking with students, teachers, and parents about how to stop bullying and the responsibility each of us has to make sure our children treat eachother with respect," Mrs. Obama says. "It's something that we care about not only as president and first lady, but also as parents. It's tough enough being a kid today, and our children deserve a chance to learn and grow without constantly being picked on, made fun of, or worse."

The president says that for a long time bullying was treated "as an unavoidable part of growing up," but notes that more and more the harmful effects can be seen.

"The good news is that there's a growing movement, led by young people themselves, to make our schools and communities places where no one is made to feel alone, or afraid for being different; where all of our children can thrive," he says. "They understand that while technology has allowed us to connect as never before -- and that's a good thing -- it shouldn't affect how we treat each other.”

People at home are also being asked to participate in the conversation online.  The Obamas direct people in their message to go to or to go to Facebook for updates on the summit.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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