Entries in Cranbrook School (2)


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


How Could Romney Not Remember Cutting a Kid’s Hair?

(NEW YORK) -- Much has already been written in the past 24 hours about the accusations that Mitt Romney was a teenage tyrant at the Cranbrook School. Former classmates say he bullied a gay student, John Lauber, pinning him to the ground and cutting his bleached blond hair.

Still lingering is the candidate’s explanation that he doesn’t remember any of it.

That episode, the subject of The Washington Post’s front-page story on Thursday, has been the biggest topic of conversation in the political world for the past two days. “As Lauber, his eyes filling with tears, screamed for help, Romney repeatedly clipped his hair with a pair of scissors,” the paper reported.

The experience was so traumatic that Lauber, who died in 2004, told a classmate in the mid-1990s, “It’s something I have thought about a lot since then,” according to the Post. Thomas Buford, a retired lawyer who was one of Romney’s classmates, told the paper, “To this day it troubles me.” Phillip Maxwell, another student who was there, told ABC News that “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.”

Romney, apparently, did forget it.

“I don’t recall the incident myself, but I’ve seen the reports and I’m not going to argue with that,” Romney said in a Fox News interview on Thursday.

It might seem incredible that an episode of bullying that was remembered by so many other people in the room has been forgotten by the Republican candidate for president. In fairness, a lot has happened to Romney since his senior year at Cranbrook — he married, served on Mormon missions, ran a private-equity firm, ran the 2002 Winter Olympics, was the governor of Massachusetts, ran for Senate, and ran for president — twice.

But the science of memory retention suggests that Romney would remember parading his classmates into a room with Lauber to clip his hair, if the experience were significant enough for Romney himself.

“One would think that such an action, if it did occur, would be laden with strong emotions, making it less likely that he would not remember it,” said Steven Lynn, a psychology professor at Binghamton University whose area of expertise is human memory.

“However, people do forget things,” Lynn said.

Lynn explained that “distinctive” events tend to be remembered — for example, it’s highly unlikely that you would forget if a piano fell in front of you while walking down the street, because of the charged feelings that would go along with that experience.

Lynn also rejected the suggestion that Romney has repressed the memory. People are unlikely to forget “highly aversive” situations, he said.

Hara Marano, the editor at large of the publication Psychology Today, who has written extensively about bullies, said scientific research on youth bullying has shown that bullies intend to harm their victims through an “abuse of power.” She said that while teasing can reflect positive traits, changing Lauber’s appearance by cutting his hair is “hard to excuse” even as a senior in high school.

“They tend to have a hostile interpretation of other people’s behavior, the behavior of people they victimize,” Marano said of bullies.

A small number of bullies, Marano said, actually do have a “positive side” — they can be charismatic and verbally sophisticated, and can help people in other situations. Displays of confidence, for example, are a known mark of a bully, she said, even if that confidence is innocuous — like Romney managing the prep school’s hockey team, cheering the football team in the pep club, and persuading the headmaster to put him an advanced-placement program.

“Bullies misperceive how others perceive them,” Marano said. “That’s one of their characteristics.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio