Melissa Howard, who is a Republican candidate for Florida’s 73rd House District, had spent days refuting accusations that there was no record of her graduation from the Butler County university and even posted a photo of her alleged diploma, according to news reports.
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Howard apologized on Monday, but said she will not drop out of the race, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported.
“I would like to apologize to my family and my supporters for this situation,” Howard said in a statement, according to the newspaper. “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.”
An article in Florida News Online originally reported that there was no record of Howard’s graduation from Miami University in the National Student Clearinghouse.
MORE: Political candidate accused of faking degree from Miami U. has other ties to Butler County
Howard denied the original report. Last week, she said she returned to her parent’s home to supposedly pick up her diploma and request her official transcript from the university. Photos of Howard posing with the alleged diploma have since been deleted from her social media accounts after Miami University General Counsel lawyer Robin Parker released a statement saying the degree pictured had major inconsistencies.
“The picture of the diploma shows that Melissa Marie Fox received a Bachelor of Science in Marketing degree from Miami University on December 20, 1996. We have no such record of a degree,” the university said in a statement that used Howard’s maiden name.
The university said it does 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,” the statement said.
Miami University records show Howard attended the school between 1990 and 1994 and that she had majored in retailing at the time.
A background check by this news outlet found no record of Howard living in Oxford after 1993.
After leaving Miami University, Howard had registered addresses in West Chester Twp., Cincinnati, Chicago and Sarasota, Fla., before moving to her current address in Lakewood Ranch, Fla.
According to her campaign website, Melissa Howard was born in St. Petersburg and grew up in an apartment in Middletown, which she described as a “blue-collar, manufacturing town where working hard is expected.”
Howard once registered as a Democrat for a 1996 election in a Hamilton County election, but she has since denied any affiliation with the party.
Voter registration records obtained by this news outlet show Howard registered as either Democrat or non-affiliated during her time in Butler County. She had no declared political party until she registered as a Republican in Florida in 2011.