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Patrick Murphy's campaign responds, says CBS Miami story 'deeply false' - but is it?

UPDATE: Our partners at Politifact looked deeper into the conclusions of the WFOR-CBS 4 Miami investigation after conservatives used the findings for an attack ad against Murphy. Murphy's campaign provided Politifact information that the campaign had not shared before. Politifact concluded: "Murphy’s description of his past employment is based on actual circumstances, but at times he omits a full explanation." Read their full analysis here.



MurphyThe morning after Miami Herald news partner WFOR-CBS 4 Miami aired part one of its blistering investigation into Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy's touted career accomplishments, the Jupiter congressman's campaign responded in force by accusing the station of airing a "deeply false" and "misleading" story.

In a lengthy "setting the record straight" email to reporters this morning, Murphy's campaign cited about a dozen aspects of CBS Miami's story, which it says are "completely inaccurate." The campaign said "overnight, there were already seven corrections" to the story, reported by Jim DeFede.

However, the online written version of the two-part report -- airing last night and tonight -- denotes no such corrections. It does appear, though, some wording has been clarified from what was first posted Wednesday night.

"CBS Miami's sensational claim is completely false," Murphy campaign manager Josh Wolf said in the statement. "While we know dozens of hopeful Republican staffers will be disappointed, CBS Miami's report shows that Patrick Murphy owned an environmental clean-up company, owned skimming vessels, and had contracts to clean up oil."

"In an effort to be as transparent as possible with proprietary corporate records, our campaign shared over 70 pages of corporate records with CBS Miami and submitted over 2,000 words of answers to questions," Wolf said. "Almost none of the information we provided is reflected in CBS Miami's deeply inaccurate reporting, which invents a story about Patrick's life that is unrecognizable to anyone who knows him."

However, some of the points that Murphy's campaign asserts today are false actually aren't -- including the two key conclusions of DeFede's reporting: That Murphy never "worked" as a CPA and isn't a "small business owner."

And much of what CBS Miami reported Wednesday wasn't new. It built off previous reporting by the Miami Herald, the Tampa Bay Times and Politico Florida, and advanced the probe with new revelations about the nuances of Murphy's narrative.

It's become routine for Murphy and his campaign to dismiss questions and media reports, which have highlighted embellishments and contradictions in the congressman's academic and professional credentials.

Among the points Murphy's campaign says are inaccurate in the CBS Miami story:

-- that "Murphy took the (CPA) licensing exam nine times before passing it," as DeFede originally reported. The campaign countered that Murphy took the whole four-part exam twice and re-took one section (the "financial account" section) a third time.  DeFede's story has been amended to clarify: "Murphy took the separate parts of the CPA licensing exam nine times."

-- that "Murphy's involvement with Coastal Environmental was brief, no more than two to five months," as DeFede reported. Murphy's campaign said it was for "six months," which has consistently been Murphy's story. However, as the Herald/Times has noted, Murphy's description of what he actually did in the Gulf following the BP oil spill has evolved significantly -- even in just the past couple months as reporters started asking more questions. Murphy no longer claims to have "led clean-up efforts"; his campaign's response today says he "worked on the clean-up operation."

-- that Murphy "has never worked a day in his life as a certified public accountant," as DeFede reported. It's hard to find this one false, as Murphy's campaign asserts it is. Murphy has been and is a CPA -- but he couldn't have ever "worked" as a CPA, because he's only ever worked in Florida and he's not licensed here. He's licensed in Colorado. And as Politico Florida has reported, Murphy's past claims to have worked for "several years" as a CPA aren't true, because Murphy was licensed for only eight months (of his nearly three years) while working at Deloitte & Touche before he left that firm to return to Coastal Construction as vice president of its environmental services division.

-- that Murphy "was never a small business owner," as DeFede reported. This one also appears to be true, but with some nuance. Murphy's campaign says Murphy is "an owner of Coastal Environmental Services." Coastal Environmental was a separate business from Coastal Construction (Murphy's father's company), but it's unclear to what extent Murphy "owned" the affiliated business. As DeFede reported -- and Murphy's campaign did not dispute -- Murphy "would not reveal whether he financed Coastal Environmental himself, placing his own money at risk, or if his father financed the business." Murphy was "named vice president" but records show he wasn't solely in charge of it. Incorporation documents from 2010 list Murphy third on a list of directors -- after both his father, Tom Murphy Jr., and Coastal Construction executive Dan Whiteman.

You can read the Murphy campaign's statement and full rebuttal here.

The campaign tried to shrug off the political fallout from the CBS Miami report -- which Republican critics pounced on -- but it's clear they fear long-lasting repercussions in what will be a heated primary and general election campaign in the months ahead. When noting corrections they said CBS Miami made, the Murphy campaign added "but (the material) will surely appear in Republican attack ads."

Photo credit: Walter Michot / Miami Herald