Florida candidate poses with fake diploma after questions about her credentials

Melissa Howard pushed back against news report with forgery, university says

SARASOTA, Fla. – A Republican candidate for the Florida House lied about having a college degree and posed with a fake diploma after a news outlet questioned her credentials.

Melissa Howard, who is running in Florida's 73rd House District near Sarasota, had claimed she graduated with a bachelor's degree from Miami University in Ohio.

However, FLA News Online, a political news website, citing the National Student Clearinghouse, reported Howard did not graduate from the Ohio college. Howard said the story was false and posted a picture of her and her mother on Facebook with a framed diploma.

The news site apologized to Howard and briefly retracted the story. However, a closer look at the diploma found several inconsistencies.

According to the photographed diploma, Howard graduated with a degree that doesn't exist at Miami University in Ohio. The school offers a bachelor of science degree in business, not a bachelor of science degree in marketing. The photographed diploma also includes a signature of Robert Johnson, the then-dean of the graduate school, not of the school of business.

Miami University General Counsel Robin Parker later confirmed to FLA News that Howard attended the university, but did not graduate from the school.

Howard did not respond directly to requests for comment. On social media, Howard said her husband was being treated at a hospital for heart problems. He has been released.

"Melissa is focused on her family -- not fake news this morning," Anthony Pedicini, a campaign consultant, told FloridaPolitics.com.

By Saturday afternoon, Howard had deleted her Twitter account and deleted several posts about her educational credentials from Facebook. 

Howard faces Tommy Gregory in the Republican primary on Aug. 28.