Mitt Romney’s Non-Apology Apology

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.David Maialetti/Philadelphia Daily News/ZumaPress.com

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


On Thursday morning, the Washington Post‘s Jason Horowitz dropped a bomb: As an 18-year-old student at an elite Michigan prep school, Mitt Romney led a band of classmates in an assault on student they thought was gay, John Lauber, because he was offended by the student’s hairstyle. Romney’s crew pushed Lauber to the ground, and as “Lauber, his eyes filling with tears, screamed for help, Romney repeatedly clipped his hair with a pair of scissors,” Horowitz reports. Romney avoided punishment; Lauber was later expelled for smoking a cigarette. Although five students involved in the incident corroborated the story and reflected on how much, even today, the incident pains them, the Romney campaign told Horowitz the candidate couldn’t recall any such incident.

Now Romney has reversed course and issued an apology: “Back in high school I did some dumb things and if anybody was hurt by that or offended by that I apologize,” he told reporters. “I certainly don’t believe that I thought the fellow was homosexual. That was the furthest thing from our minds back in the 1960s.”

Did I say “apology”? I meant “total dodge that absolves him of any responsibility for what happened, and any genuine regret”—what CNN political analyst William Schneider once coined the “past exonerative.” By inserting “if,” Romney leaves open the possibility that, in fact, no one was hurt or offended by the assault. Maybe the tears were tears of joy? It’s also curious that Romney, who purportedly didn’t remember the incident, now remembers the incident so well he’s able to refute the accounts of his classmates, who explicitly noted that the Lauber’s perceived homosexuality had made him a target. As Conn Carroll of the conservative Washington Examiner puts it, “Romney bullying apology [is] unacceptable. It is non-responsive. Only guarantees more questioning. Does he remember incident or not?”

It’s not an apology if you never really say you’re sorry.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate