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Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman September 15, 2016

Marco Rubio's ad says Patrick Murphy embellished University of Miami college degree

Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio says that U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy "has trouble with the truth."

In a TV ad, Rubio said that his Democratic opponent misled voters about his work experience and educational background.

The ad includes a clip of a WPTV news anchor Michael Williams on May 23 saying: "Murphy embellished, according to reports, his University of Miami academic achievement."

Rubio’s ad -- the first during the general election -- makes several other claims about Murphy’s resume and record in Congress which we have previously fact-checked -- and we will explain those in more details later. Here we will focus on whether Murphy embellished his college record.

Murphy’s college degree

The ad is largely based on findings by the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times on May 23 about how Murphy had characterized his educational background.

The Herald/Times reported that Murphy's congressional office and Senate campaign websites claimed he graduated with "degrees in accounting and finance" from the University of Miami.

But in reality, he had a single degree based on two areas of study. In 2006, Murphy graduated with a bachelor’s in business administration, with his major areas of study being accounting and finance.

Murphy’s campaign spokeswoman, Galia Slayen, told the Herald/Times in May that the embellishments were unintentional. After the Herald/Times pointed it out to the Murphy campaign, it  changed the language to reflect a single degree on both websites.

But this wasn’t the first time he had claimed dual degrees, the Herald/Times found.

On his campaign website during his first U.S. House race in 2012, Murphy claimed "earning dual bachelor’s degrees."

In January 2013 as he started his first term, Murphy told Port St. Lucie local access TV, "I got a dual degree, actually, in finance and accounting."

After he won his Treasure Coast seat, Murphy’s House and re-election campaign biographies cited a single bachelor’s degree.

Then the claims about "dual degrees" surfaced when he announced his U.S. Senate campaign in 2015.

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For example, on March 24, 2015, his House website stated: "He earned his B.S. in business administration from the University of Miami, graduating with dual degrees in accounting and finance."

A University of Miami spokeswoman, Megan M. Ondrizek, told PolitiFact Florida that Murphy earned a bachelor of business administration in 2006.

"He had double majors—one in Finance and one in Accounting," she said. "It is a single degree with a double major. A double major completes the requirements for one degree but two majors."

Alexandra Bassil told the Herald/Times in May that although the university offers separate degrees in accounting and 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.

Murphy’s campaign spokesman Joshua Karp told PolitiFact Florida that the website language was "an innocent mistake."

"Previous versions of the biography were accurate," Karp said. "Of course Patrick has a dual major in finance and accounting. The ad doesn’t provide the context: this was fixed and we owned up to it."

Other claims in Rubio’s ad

Rubio’s ad also includes clips from a CBS4 Miami report that "Murphy has never been a licensed CPA in Florida" and that "Murphy was not a small business owner."

That is similar to attacks made in a TV ad by the National Republican Senatorial Committee that Murphy "never worked as a CPA" and was "never a small business owner." Although Murphy has oversold his resume, it’s an exaggeration to say he "never" worked in those capacities so we rated that claim Mostly False.

But Rubio’s wording about Murphy’s CPA record is slightly different because he refers to where he got his license. Murphy obtained his CPA license from Colorado while working at Deloitte and Touche in Florida. That means Murphy could still work on audits but couldn’t sign them since he didn’t have a Florida license.

Rubio’s ad also says, "No wonder a non-partisan study ranked Murphy one of the least effective members of Congress." An American Future Fund ad said that "Murphy was named one of America's least effective congressmen," which we rated Mostly False, because it was based on a much-criticized analysis. (The ad cites a Tampa Bay Times blog about a ranking by InsideGov in 2015.)

Our ruling

Rubio’s TV ad says, "Murphy embellished, according to reports, his University of Miami academic achievement."

Murphy has described his University of Miami record in conflicting ways in recent years. On his congressional office and U.S. Senate campaign websites he said he had "dual degrees" when in fact he had a single degree with a double major in two areas of study: accounting and finance. When the Herald/Times pointed out the inaccuracy, his campaign said it was an error and fixed it. Murphy had also referred to "dual degree" at times in the past while other times his websites reflected a single degree.

We rate this claim Mostly True.

Our Sources

Political Ad Archive, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio "Truth" TV ad, Sept. 13, 2016

WPTV, Clip of news story about U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, May 23, 2016

Patrick Murphy, Campaign website, 2012

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, Office website, March 24, 2015

Port St. Lucie Local Access TV, Interview with U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, Jan. 11, 2013

Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times, "Patrick Murphy embellished his University of Miami academic achievement," May 23, 2016

Washington Post, "Just how much trouble is Patrick Murphy in?" June 24, 2016

Tampa Bay Times The Buzz, "Study targets Patrick Murphy in ranking of least effective members of Congress," Aug. 10, 2015

PolitiFact Florida, "Republican group misleads in attack on Patrick Murphy's resume," Sept. 8, 2016

PolitiFact Florida, "Ad attacking Patrick Murphy as among ‘least effective’ in Congress misses the mark," Sept. 9, 2016

Interview, Michael Ahrens, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio campaign spokesman, Sept. 13, 2016

Interview, Joshua Karp, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy campaign spokesman, Sept. 13, 2016

Interview, Megan M. Ondrizek, University of Miami spokeswoman, Sept. 13, 2016

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More by Amy Sherman

Marco Rubio's ad says Patrick Murphy embellished University of Miami college degree

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