If you’re not familiar with Republican Congressman Andy Ogles of Tennessee’s 5th District yet, you’re to be excused. He was only just seated for his first term this year and hasn’t had a lot of time to generate headlines. Prior to that, he served as the mayor of Maury County. But the press, particularly back in his home state has been digging deeply into his resume and finding some discrepancies. This report from The Tennessean focuses on Ogles’ previous claims on the campaign trail to have a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Middle Tennessee State University. (There are also other “embellishments” being cited that we’ll get to in a moment.) There are portions of his statement about his time at college that are true, but others are not. He wound up releasing a “correction” this weekend after a local news outlet obtained a copy of his college transcripts.
U.S. Rep. Andy Ogles, R-Columbia, said this week he misspoke about the degree he received from Middle Tennessee State University, an admission that comes amid ongoing scrutiny that he has embellished his credentials and work experience.
Ogles said he graduated from MTSU with a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies, not the international relations degree he cited in public conversations during appearances throughout his career as mayor of Maury County, his campaign for Tennessee’s 5th Congressional District seat and now in his time in the U.S. House.
Okay, so Ogles had repeatedly stated over the years that he received a bachelor’s in International Relations from MTSU, but he actually received a bachelor’s in the more generic field of “Liberal Studies.” And the school acknowledges that he attended and graduated, so is it really that big of a deal? It’s complicated.
As it turns out, Ogles enrolled at MTSU back in 1990. But due to family issues back home, he wound up leaving school before finishing his degree. Later, in the late 90s and then the 2000s, he returned to his educational path and received his bachelor’s degree in 2007. He now says that he was under the impression that he had gotten a degree in International Relations, but recently “reviewed his transcripts” and discovered that it was a Liberal Studies major. He has apologized for “the error.”
Fair enough, I suppose, but that’s not the end of the issues that were dug up by NewsChannel5 in Nashville. For one thing, Ogles has repeatedly claimed to be “a trained economist” and to have “worked as an economist.” But the record shows that he only ever completed a single community college Principles of Economics course where he received a “C” grade. There doesn’t appear to be any record of him working professionally as an economist.
The congressman has also repeatedly claimed that he has “a background in law enforcement” where he “fought against international sex trafficking crimes.” But he actually worked for a time as a consultant to a human rights group, Abolition International. That’s not really a “law enforcement job,” though I’m sure the group is trying to do good work. Ogles wasn’t with the group for very long.
So how bad is this exactly? Well, it’s not good. We should always strive for honesty and transparency from our elected officials. But we’re still nowhere near George Santos territory. (Or at least not yet.) But in that regard, perhaps Santos has done us all a favor. Obviously, the media missed the boat when Santos was running and now news outlets, particularly local newsrooms such as NewsChannel5, are sharpening their pencils and combing through the claims of all candidates and tracking down the historical records to verify them. It may be a painful process at first, but we may wind up with better candidates in the coming election cycles as a result.