The last time Barack Obama appeared on late-night TV with Jimmy Fallon, Washington Post TV writer Lisa de Moraes played it straight as an NBC ratings smash. She only revealed her trademark snark after about 1,000 words of straight reportage, joking about Obama-loving Fallon: "We've seen tween girls more poised around Justin Bieber."
On Friday morning, de Moraes took the occasion of the five sons of Mitt Romney appearing on Conan to be a team player and very soberly recount The Washington Post’s "expose" of allegations that Romney cut a classmate’s hair at his private high school:
TBS late-night star Conan O'Brien hosted Mitt Romney's five grown sons on his show Wednesday night as the siblings continue their "Dad's a Prankster" campaign.
The campaign launched in earnest on Father's Day, when the GOP presidential candidate's camp released a video in which his sons reminisce about their dad as a great "entertainer" who pulls pranks.
Last month, The Washington Post published an article that recounted an incident in which Romney, while a prep-school senior, marched a posse toward a new student who was "perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality" and cut the student's bleach-blond hair. In another incident, The Post reported, Romney shouted "Atta girl!" at the efforts of a then-closeted gay student to speak out in class.
Romney apologized last month for participating in "a lot of hijinks and pranks during high school" and said "some might have gone too far." He said he does not remember the haircutting incident.
Back to Conan.
"Is one of you a girl being raised as a boy?" Conan asked Romney's sons early in Wednesday's interview.
"Ben, you want to take this one?" said Josh Romney, turning to one of his brothers.
"Ben - sold out immediately!" Conan snarked, adding, "You're very attractive, Ben."
"It's the purple tie," Conan sidekick Andy Richter said of Ben's attire.
One could argue that Team Romney is pushing the he’s-a-prankster line too hard to try and ward off the idea that Romney is some kind of robot with metal hair. But the Post seems to be engaged in trying to wince at Romney’s image moves no matter which way he goes. No! You can’t try to warm up with pranks! No! You can’t warm up Mrs. Romney with her horses! Ouch! Don't try to be human at all! After all, no one can compete in Friendly and Personable with the Obamas, they suggest.
The Romney sons also suggested on Conan they have real reservations about how their father’s campaign (if successful) could affect their personal lives, but that didn’t make the Post story.