Howard Apologizes for Fake Degree, But Stays in Race

Politics

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Melissa Howard, a state House candidate running in District 73, has issued an apology after posting a picture of an apparently fake college degree.

"I would like to apologize to my family and my supporters for this situation," Howard posted on Facebook. "It was not my intent to deceive or mislead anyone. I made a mistake in saying that I completed my degree. What I did was wrong and set a bad example for someone seeking public service. I am staying in the race and intend to win and lead by example from now on."

Howard flew to Ohio last week to prove she graduated from Miami University, and even posted a picture online of her with a 1996 college degree mounted and framed in her mother's house.

But university officials quickly said the degree did not appear to be authentic. Howard's campaign initially disputed the story as "fake news." The apology makes clear, however, that Howard did not finish her degree when she attended the university.

Howard is running against Tommy Gregory in the Aug. 28 Republican primary. The winner faces Democrat Liv Coleman in a Nov. 6 general election.

Gregory, a Sarasota attorney and former JAG lawyer, says Howard’s choice to stay in the race showed poor character. “Melissa Howard has lied, broken the law, and been caught red-handed,” he said. “In the military, she would be discharged dishonorably. Yet instead of withdrawing gracefully, she is doubling down on her deceit even to the detriment of other Republicans. I will be making my case that I have the courage and integrity to fight the establishment and clean up the sort of corrupt behavior represented by Melissa Howard."

Coleman, a University of Tampa professor, says lying about one’s academic credentials is something voters should take seriously. “It’s so important that our representatives are role models of honesty and integrity, and that includes how we choose to represent our educational credentials,” she says. “I offer a strong alternative to what we’ve seen the last few days and I look forward to the general election contest in November because I know voters will want someone who will stand up for the values that they share.”

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