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University says a Florida candidate who claims to be an alum never graduated, and the diploma in her photo is not accurate

A Florida state house candidate's college degree has been called into question -- by the very university fro...

Posted: Aug 13, 2018 4:11 PM
Updated: Aug 13, 2018 4:11 PM

A Florida state house candidate's college degree has been called into question -- by the very university from which she claims to have graduated.

Last week, FLA News reported that Melissa Howard, a Republican running for Florida House of Representatives District 73, did not have a degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, as she said she did in her candidate bio.

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In a statement responding to FLA News, Howard's campaign said the story was an attempt by her opponent in the primary to "hurt Melissa or her reputation within the community," and that she had, in fact, graduated with a degree in marketing.

The 46-year-old candidate later posted what FLA News described as a partial college transcript, as well as pictures of her posing with a framed diploma on her Facebook page. The images were no longer available on Sunday.

In response to her photos, FLA News, which calls itself "the conservative choice for Florida news and politics" briefly rescinded its story.

But Miami University also told CNN and other news outlets it has no record of Howard earning a degree there. The school said that Melissa Marie Fox (Howard's maiden name) had attended Miami University from August 1990 to May 1994, but she never graduated.

The university also pointed out a few critical flaws on the image of the diploma that Howard briefly posted on social media.

The document in the image showed that she received a Bachelor of Science in Marketing degree, but the university said it has no such record of a degree. School officials said the university's degree for marketing majors, both then and now, is called a Bachelor of Science in Business.

Also, Howard's major while she was enrolled at Miami University had been retailing, and the degree for that program would have been a Bachelor of Science in Family and Consumer Sciences, according to the university.

The picture of the diploma included the signatures of James Garland, who was the president of the university in 1996, and of Robert C. Johnson, who was actually the dean of the graduate school, which would not have been the proper school, the university statement said.

The university counsel said in a statement to CNN that the document in the photo "does not appear to be an accurate Miami University diploma."

CNN reached out to Howard, but has not heard back.

Howard's campaign consultant, Anthony Pedicini, told the Washington Post that Howard's husband had been hospitalized Friday night after suffering cardiac arrest. She is "focused on him right now," he said, and not on "fake news."

In her website bio, the candidate stated she was the first in her family to attend college and that "she waited tables at Ponderosa and saved enough from summer jobs to complete her education. Upon graduation she worked for large (Marriott and Microsoft) and small companies before launching her own marketing business that today serves clients throughout the world."

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