Part 2—Was Lauber presumed to be gay: Over the past fifteen years, Chris Matthews has played a large, noxious role in The Way We Have Been as a nation.
On Sunday, the loud stupid fellow was sounding off on the program of upper-class memorization known as Meet the Press. Alas! One part of The Way We Are is that we aren’t very smart:
GREGORY (5/13/12): Does the bullying story for Romney tie into this in any way? Does anybody think that?A large part of The Way We Are is that we aren’t very smart. Matthews asserted that Romney and a group of his friends bullied a student in 1965 because “they thought [he] was gay.” When David Gregory noted that Romney has denied that claim about motivation, Matthews didn’t defend his claim. He simply said that Romney hasn’t denied that the bullying incident happened.
MATTHEWS: I think so. I think the idea of a, of a young kid leading a brigade of kids to go look for the kid they thought was gay, putting him down on the ground, cutting his hair off, humiliating the kid—
GREGORY: Romney says that was in no way the motivation.
MATTHEWS: That's what he said, but the fact is he's not denying the incident at all.
By objective standards, that was a very stupid response. But it’s par for the course on a program like this, where the culture’s most overpaid hacks gather to recite the claims which comprise the “public discourse.”
At one time, society sent its swells onto programs like What’s My Line. They engaged in silly badinage—but that banter was harmless.
Now, we send our swells onto programs like Meet the Press, where they recite Preferred Standard Claims about very significant topics. This is an unfortunate part of The Way We Have Become.
Question: Did Romney and his friends bully John Lauber because “they thought [he] was gay?” Matthews stated this claim as a fact, although he can’t really know if it’s true. But in fairness, Matthews had an excuse—he may have been reading the Washington Post, one of our leading newspapers.
On Friday morning, the Post had published a 5400-word novella built around this bullying incident. In an accompanying news report, Nia-Malika Henderson provided this capsule account:
HENDERSON (5/11/12): Mitt Romney responded Thursday to a news article describing him as a prep-school prankster who bullied a classmate by apologizing for past incidents that may have been harmful, adding that he has grown into a different person since his school days.According to Henderson, five of Romney’s classmates said that Lauber “was presumed to be gay.” That could be true, of course. But uh-oh! There is no evidence of any such statement by any such classmates at any point in the novella Henderson claimed to describe!
In 1965, a teenage Romney led a group that forcibly cut the hair of a student who wore his dyed-blond tresses long and was presumed to be gay, according to five of Romney's classmates at the elite Cranbrook School in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., who were interviewed by The Washington Post.
Romney, the presumed GOP presidential nominee, denied any anti-gay animus.
Did Romney’s classmates say that Lauber was presumed to be gay? At no point in the Post’s sprawling novella is anyone quoted making any such statement. The report was written by Jason Horowitz; he had so much space at his disposal that he even included three paragraphs about the way Kuwaiti students were treated at Cranbrook during this era.
On balance, they were treated well, Horowitz wrote in his sprawling report. But at no point did Horowitz quote any of Romney’s classmates saying that Lauber was believed to be gay, or that he had been teased or attacked for that reason.
Did Romney’s brigade bully Lauber because they thought he was gay? Horowitz did quote five witnesses to the attack, including at least one of the attackers. Four of these witnesses spoke on the record.
Beyond that, Horowitz had spoken to other students about life at Cranbrook during this time—and about Lauber. But despite Henderson’s statement, at no point did Horowitz quote any of the five eyewitnesses, or anyone else, saying that Lauber was presumed or believed to be gay. In the fullness of 5400 words, this was the closest Horowitz came to any such statement:
HOROWITZ (5/11/12): When Lauber's younger sister, Betsy, visited the campus, she said she found him happy and sporting a preppy look. He took her to an off-campus party at a fellow student's house where they danced to Motown records and laughed.As it turned out, Lauber was gay. At some later unspecified point, he came out to his sisters. But was he presumed to be gay while at Cranbrook? That statement by Lady is jumbled, unclear. But incredibly, it represents the only time Horowitz quotes or cites any student speaking to this question.
But he was always a bit different from the rest. During breaks from school, he worked as a mortician's assistant. He spent more time devouring books than making friends in clubs.
"He was very quiet, not a jock," said Steph Lady. "Very soft-spoken. I know nothing, probably gay, but who knows. We were so stupid and naive. I know there was homosexuality there, but we didn't even have a word for it. And there was homophobia then, too."
As far as anyone can tell, Steph Lady was not a witness to the attack. But in all his 5400 words, this is the only point where Horowitz quotes or paraphrases anyone discussing what students thought about Lauber’s sexual orientation. And even here, you will note the lack of clarity in Horowitz’s writing—a lack of clarity which is quite routine in “journalism” of this type.
“I know nothing, probably gay, but who knows,” Lady is quoted saying. Did Horowitz directly ask Lady if students thought Lauber was gay? If he did, he withheld Lady’s direct response to that rather obvious question. And in those 5400 words, there is no sign that Horowitz ever asked anyone else if students thought Lauber was gay!
Did Horowitz ask witnesses Maxwell, Seed or Friedemann if students thoughts Lauber was gay? Did he ask Buford, who took part in the attack? Almost surely, he must have asked. If he didn’t, he ought to be fired. And uh-oh:
When Horowitz fails to record what these students said about this obvious point, sensible people will start to wonder if they perhaps told him no—that Lauber wasn’t believed or presumed to be gay. At any rate, this is part of The Unfortunate Way We Are:
When our “journalists” have a story they very much like, such niceties may not stop them from telling it. Over the past twenty years or so, our “journalists” have often found ways to tell the unflattering stories they like about the candidates they don’t prefer.
How odd! What follows is the very first paragraph of Horowitz’s report, a 5400-word novella in which no one is quoted saying that Lauber was believed to be gay:
HOROWITZ: Mitt Romney returned from a three-week spring break in 1965 to resume his studies as a high school senior at the prestigious Cranbrook School. Back on the handsome campus, studded with Tudor brick buildings and manicured fields, he spotted something he thought did not belong at a school where the boys wore ties and carried briefcases. John Lauber, a soft-spoken new student one year behind Romney, was perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality. Now he was walking around the all-boys school with bleached-blond hair that draped over one eye, and Romney wasn't having it.Is the highlighted statement true? Was Lauber teased (and perhaps attacked) because he was presumed to be gay? Horowitz made this suggestion in his opening paragraph—although you’ll note that he doesn’t actually make any such statement. But at no point in his novella does he quote or cite a single student saying that Lauber was presumed to be gay, although he gave the semi-impression that Lady had made such a claim.
Horowitz quoted no one saying that Lauber was believed to be gay. But so what? Henderson leaped into action, telling the world that “five of Romney's classmates” said that Lauber was attacked because he was “presumed to be gay.” There is no sign that anyone made that claim at any point in Horowitz’s endless report.
But so what? Two days later, one of the most corrupt hustlers in our society was voicing this claim on Meet the Press, offering a typical brainless remark when Gregory questioned his statement.
Was John Lauber presumed to be gay? Like you, we have no way of knowing. But what follows is part of The Way We Are, part of The Way We Have Been for some time:
Alas! When our “journalists” get a story they very much like, they will find a way to tell it. The nation’s pundits will then swing into action, flinging their poo all around.
From 1998 through 2001, Matthews invented similar stories about both Clintons and especially about Gore. Jack Welch was making him rich at that time, and Welch was a hard-core Republican.
Today, the beast has been repurposed, in keeping with a new corporate line. But in the end, The Way He Is hasn’t changed very much at all.
So too with The Way We Are, as we will note on the morrow.
Tomorrow: Watching us liberals react