20:51 GMT26 February 2020
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    Media outlet to GOP candidate: “What’s this about you lying that you have a college degree?” GOP candidate to media: “I can’t talk about that because my husband had a heart attack!”

    A Republican candidate for the state's House of Representatives lied about graduating from Ohio's Miami University, going so far as to snap a picture of herself holding a fake diploma. When outed in her lie, she hid behind a campaign spokesperson who claimed that no further answers were forthcoming as the candidate's husband had suffered a "cardiac event."

    ​Melissa Howard, a 46-year-old Florida business owner running for the Republican primary in the Florida House of Representatives' 73rd District, claims she was the "first in her family to attend college" on her campaign website.

    FLA News Online was the first media outlet to report that Howard lied about having a college degree. However, the news website later changed its story after Howard allegedly flew to Ohio's Miami University and posted a picture of her and her mother smiling next to a framed diploma.

    ​However, in an email sent to Florida news outlets, Miami University confirmed that, as FLA News had previously reported, Howard did not graduate from the college and the diploma that she took a picture with, was a fake.

    Claire Webster, director of university news and communications for Miami University, told WTSP that Melissa Fox — Howard's name before she married — does not have a degree from the school, even though Howard claims that she graduated from Miami University in 1996 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing. She was, however, enrolled at the school some time between 1990-1994. If she had graduated, she would have received a Bachelor of Science degree in Family and Consumer Sciences, according to the University of Miami.

    ​According to Webster, there are multiple issues with the diploma uploaded on Howard's media accounts. Firstly, the diploma in the picture does not appear to be a genuine Miami University diploma. In addition, the university has no record that Howard obtained the marketing degree shown in the photo.

    The image containing the diploma uploaded online also includes the signatures of James C. Garland, President, and Robert C. Johnson, Dean. Although Garland was president of the university when Howard was enrolled, Johnson was dean of the Graduate School and not the dean of the Richard T. Farmer School of Business Administration.

    ​Following the incident, Howard's campaign consultant, Anthony Pedicini, told media outlets that Howard's husband suffered a "cardiac event" on Friday and the Republican candidate "won't be responding to allegations and fake news until he fully recovers."

    "[She is] focused on him right now […] that's all I got [sic] for you right now," Pedicini said, according to reports.

    Howard's photo of her and her mother posing for a picture with her degree has since been deleted from her Twitter and Facebook accounts.


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