A heated political race in Florida is coming down to a question of degrees.
Melissa Howard, a candidate for the Florida Legislature, has been accused of lying about graduating from college and then producing a fake diploma, the Herald-Tribune of Sarasota reported.
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Howard, a businesswoman running against Tommy Gregory in the Aug. 28 Republican primary for state House District 73, on Friday answered accusations from a conservative-based website about her college graduation by distributing photographs of what she claimed was her diploma from Miami University in Ohio. According to the Herald-Tribune, she also posted photographs of what she claimed was her transcript on Facebook, writing that “The truth shall set you free!”
“It only took a night of flying back to my old stomping grounds to catch my opponent in yet another lie!” Howard wrote in her post.
However, the Herald-Tribune cited an email from Miami University general counsel Robin Parker, who said Howard never graduated.
Howard, whose maiden name was Fox when she attended the Ohio university, did not receive a bachelor of science degree in marketing in December 1996 as she claimed, the Herald-Tribune reported, citing Parker’s email.
“We have no such record of a degree,” Parker wrote, noting that the university did not offer a degree in marketing..
“Miami University’s degree for Marketing majors then, as it is now, was a Bachelor of Science in Business,” Parker wrote, adding that Howard’s major, according to university records, was retail. “The picture of the diploma that was posted on the HowardforHouse73 Facebook page does not appear to be an accurate Miami University diploma.
The website Florida News Online, which bills itself as “The conservative choice for Florida news & politics.” questioned Howard’s academic credentials in a story on Tuesday.
“I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t deal with this,” Howard told the Herald-Tribune on Friday.
Howard told the website that the story was “a lie,” and Florida News Online retracted the story and apologized after Howard distributed the photo of her holding a framed diploma, the Herald-Tribune reported. However, the site reposted its story after Parker told them Howard did not graduate, Florida News Online reported.
Howard could not be reached for comment Saturday, the Herald-Tribune reported.
Her campaign consultant, Anthony Pedicini, said in a text message to the newspaper that Howard’s husband, Ian Howard, had a “cardiac event” Friday and is in the hospital.
“Melissa is focused on her family — not fake news this morning,” Pedicini wrote.
Gregory said in a text to the Herald-Tribune that “voters deserve nothing less than truth and integrity from their elected officials.”
“Unfortunately, it seems that Melissa Howard has failed that test,” he said in his text.
UPDATE: Howard campaign still silent after FLA News story reveals she used fake college degree https://t.co/Cr6zqpiTXt— FLA News Online (@flanewsonline) August 12, 2018
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