Today’s unconscionable Washington Post story, which implied without evidence that Mitt Romney was a homophobic bully to one John Lauber back in his high school days five decades ago, has totally imploded.
Timed to drop the day after President Obama’s announced embrace of same-sex marriage, the story set the political world atwitter. But earlier today, Breitbart News reported that the Post had inflated witness testimony. The original Washington Post piece stated the following:
“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 has long been bothered by the Lauber incident. [emphasis added]
Yet in an interview with ABC News today, White disowned that characterization:
While the Post reports White as having “long been bothered” by the haircutting incident,” he told ABC News he was not present for the prank, in which Romney is said to have forcefully cut a student’s long hair and was not aware of it until this year when he was contacted by the Washington Post.
White didn’t know about the incident until this year, but the Post reported that he had “long been bothered” by it. We demanded a correction.
So the Washington Post did what no reputable newspaper should ever do when caught falsifying testimony: it made a stealth correction to its own article. The article now reads:
“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.” [emphasis added]
The Post did not note that it had made any correction to the article.
It was irresponsible of the Post to run the hit piece in the first place, especially given its obvious bias; to retract a critical phrase and replace it without noting the retraction is just as bad.
But it gets worse. Tonight, Christine Lauber, John Lauber’s sister, said that she didn’t know anything about the bullying incident. More importantly, she said that the story had factual inaccuracies. Betsy Lauber, another of John’s sisters, told ABC News, “The family of John Lauber is releasing a statement saying the portrayal of John is factually incorrect and we are aggrieved that he would be used to further a political agenda. There will be no more comments from the family.” Said Christine, “If he were alive today, he would be furious [about the story].” Jason Horowitz, the reporter on the Post story, did speak to both sisters and quoted them in the story – but apparently still botched the facts.
The Post piece implies that the Romney incident was somehow the beginning of the end for Lauber:
Sometime in the mid-1990s, David Seed noticed a familiar face at the end of a bar at Chicago O’Hare International Airport.
“Hey, you’re John Lauber,” Seed recalled saying at the start of a brief conversation. Seed, also among those who witnessed the Romney-led incident, had gone on to a career as a teacher and principal. Now he had something to get off his chest.
“I’m sorry that I didn’t do more to help in the situation,” he said.
Lauber paused, then responded, “It was horrible.” He went on to explain how frightened he was during the incident, and acknowledged to Seed, “It’s something I have thought about a lot since then.”
Lauber died in 2004, according to his three sisters.
But Lauber, at least according to his obituary in the South Bend Tribune, led an incredibly full life. He graduated from Vanderbilt, became a member of the British Horse Society, had his seaman papers, was a licensed mortician in three states and head chef at the Russian River Resort in California, and even served as a civilian contractor to the troops in Iraq. This does not sound like someone crippled by a supposedly crucial incident back in high school.