1. Florida Politics

Patrick Murphy embellished his University of Miami academic achievement

U.S. Rep. Pat?rick Murphy wants to succeed Sen. Marco Rubio.
U.S. Rep. Pat?rick Murphy wants to succeed Sen. Marco Rubio.
Published May 24, 2016

TALLAHASSEE — For the past 14 months on Patrick Murphy's official congressional website and his campaign website for U.S. Senate, Murphy claimed he earned "degrees in accounting and finance" from the University of Miami.

But that was an exaggeration of his academic credentials.

Murphy — a two-term Democratic congressman from Jupiter — earned a single degree from the university in 2006: a bachelor's in business administration, with his major areas of study being accounting and finance.

That's not the same as the "dual degrees" Murphy claimed to have earned in the biography on his U.S. House website or the "degrees" he mentioned in his campaign biography.

Murphy's campaign spokeswoman, Galia Slayen, said the embellishments were unintentional.

Internet archive records show how Murphy's descriptions of his education evolved in recent years.

Murphy first falsely claimed "earning dual bachelor's degrees" during his first U.S. House race in 2012. After he took office, Murphy's House and re-election campaign biographies were correct and had accurate descriptions of his single bachelor's degree.

But the embellishment resurfaced — on both biographies — when he announced his bid for U.S. Senate in March 2015.

"Thank you for drawing our attention to this inadvertent error," Slayen said in a campaign statement Monday. "Previous biographies were accurate. Patrick has a dual major in finance and accounting, with his degree in business administration. It is already corrected."

Murphy's congressional and campaign biographies were amended just after noon Monday to fix the error — a few hours after the Times/Herald inquired about the discrepancies in Murphy's academic record.

Neither Murphy's congressional office, nor his U.S. Senate campaign, granted the Times/Herald's request to interview Murphy.

Murphy himself has incorrectly claimed he earned a "dual degree." He used the phrase in an interview with Port St. Lucie local-access TV right after he took office in Congress in 2013.

Florida's U.S. Senate race is among the most closely watched in the country, as it's one of a handful that could help decide which party controls the chamber next year.

Murphy is viewed as a leading contender among the crowded slate of candidates seeking to replace Republican Marco Rubio. He faces a competitive contest in the August Democratic primary against fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando. Five Republicans are duking it out in the GOP primary.

A degree verification requested by the Times/Herald confirmed that it's inaccurate for Murphy to have claimed he got multiple or "dual degrees," for which a student earns two unique diplomas.

And it's not even possible for him to have earned the "dual degrees" he touted.

University of Miami spokeswoman Alexandra Bassil said that while the university offers separate degrees in accounting and in finance, students "are not permitted to pursue dual degrees in those two subjects."

"Often, students who double major make the mistake of saying they have two degrees," Bassil said.

Shortly after Murphy was first sworn in to Congress in 2013 — as the chamber's youngest member at the time at 29 years old — his official House biography correctly described him as having "earned his B.S. in business administration from the University of Miami, graduating with dual majors in accounting and finance."

It remained that way for more than two years, until at least Feb. 22, 2015, Internet archives show. But, by a month later — March 24, a day after Murphy launched his U.S. Senate campaign — it changed, sounding slightly more impressive.

"He earned his B.S. in business administration from the University of Miami, graduating with dual degrees in accounting and finance," reads an archived copy of the webpage captured that day.

About six months later — sometime between September and October last fall — the biography was amended once again with a simpler, but more inaccurate, description: "He graduated with dual degrees in accounting and finance from the University of Miami," Murphy's House website read. It still had that claim as of Monday morning, before his staff amended it to read "dual majors."

His congressional office offered no comment, other than to note the error was corrected.

Murphy's campaign websites in the past four years have included similarly evolving claims about his education, Internet archives show.

While his 2012 campaign used the false claim, his 2014 campaign biography initially said he earned a "bachelor's degree … in accounting and finance." In the latter six months of the campaign, the webpage omitted altogether any mention of his time at the University of Miami.

His current Senate campaign website, though, claimed Murphy graduated "with degrees in accounting and finance." Murphy's campaign corrected it Monday to read "majors," instead of "degrees."

Contact Kristen M. Clark at Follow @ByKristenMClark.