The Washington Post's controversial exposé on the young Mitt Romney just became more controversial. Presented as an investigative journalism piece, Jason Horowitz’s article contrasts sharply with a similar "flashback" article on Romney recently published in the June 2012 print edition of Automobile Magazine by author David Murray. Both articles chronicle anecdotal events in Romney’s teen years as told by classmates and friends. But while both quote some of the same people, the Washington Post article contains several inexplicable inconsistencies, omissions and false inferences.
The WaPo article focuses on the alleged John Lauber haircutting incident, including quotes from Romney childhood friend Phillip Maxwell: “’It was a hack job,’ recalled Maxwell, a childhood friend of Romney who was in the dorm room when the incident occurred. ‘It was vicious.’”
Apparently not so vicious, however, for Maxwell to relate the incident for the Auto Mag article. Auto Mag does, however, quote Maxwell giving crucial details notably missing from the Post piece: “’I'm a Democrat, so I won't vote for him,’ says Maxwell. 'But he'd probably make a pretty good President. He's very smart, very principled.’”
The Post neglected to mention these relevant facts, just as it neglected to mention Maxwell’s skepticism about Romney’s religion as reported in the Auto Mag piece: “‘He’s determined to claim the highest office in the land--to be the first Mormon to do it. He keeps that undercover because he doesn’t want to frighten people.’”
The Post also creates inferences about Romney that seem to be debunked in the Auto Mag article. Horowitz quotes Matthew Friedemann, the most vocally harsh critic on the Lauber haircutting, in a manner inferring that Romney was a snobbish kid who owned his own car: “When Romney left the campus on weekends, he never invited him. ‘I didn’t quite fit into the social circle. I didn’t have a car when I was 16,’ Friedemann said.”
Well, neither did Romney, according to his friend Gregg Dearth in the Auto Mag article: “’Mitt didn’t get a car at sixteen--ike many Cranbrook kids did.”’ And Romney did invite classmates home on weekends, according to Maxwell--a fact once again nowhere to be found in the Post article.
The Post article briefly mentions Dearth, but not to the degree--or to the effect--in the Auto Mag article, which quotes Dearth extensively:
"With his powerful father, 'He could have been an arrogant, stuck-up, snotty little brat,' says Dearth. ‘But he was a great guy -- an all-American kid with a great sense of humor, very self-effacing.’ And although it's been documented that Romney played a teenage prank or two -- including once impersonating a police officer in order to scare some female friends -- Dearth remembers Mitt as the most straitlaced kid in the neighborhood. ‘Those of us who tested the boundaries in high school still marvel at the self-discipline he displayed,' Dearth continues. ‘With a father who was then governor, Mitt knew where the line was and never crossed it. I think it was a sign of his deep respect for his dad and the way he was brought up. I often tell people he has more integrity than anyone I know. And I was raised a Unitarian.’”
Another Post inconsistency appears through witness Stu White (emphasis added):
“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.”
After nearly 50 years, Stu White only heard of the Lauber incident a few weeks before the Post contacted him for his impressions of it. Yet “investigative journalist” Jason Horowitz does not ask the basic journalistic question of “who” told Stu White of the incident--and “why” suddenly now, after 50 years. Does WaPo just dismiss this as miraculous coincidence?
Isn’t that perhaps the most crucial element to the Post story--the question of why Obama’s epic same-sex marriage announcement seemed to have been timed so precisely with someone tipping off Stu White after 50 years, and with the Post's publication of its gay-bullying hit piece on Romney? White's anonymous informant and the Post's piece seem hardly coincidental.
To summarize: two current articles based on interviews with some of the same former classmates. But they present two differing and largely inconsistent portraits, with Horowitz's Washington Post either failing to investigate, or deliberately omitting, crucial and relevant information revealed by Murray in Automobile Magazine about Romney's character in high school. It would seem that the Post’s investigative journalism standards leave much to be desired.
Update: Automobile Magazine has just put its Romney article online.