MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Tony Evers said Friday that he believes Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes has been truthful about whether he graduated from college.
Barnes volunteered in an interview this month with Isthmus, a weekly Madison newspaper, that he didn't graduate from Alabama A&M University because he hadn't finished a course.
Barnes' campaign gave the Wisconsin State Journal last year a questionnaire saying Barnes earned a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism from the school. Barnes also told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and The Capital Times last year that he "finished" college in 2008.
School officials have confirmed to The Associated Press that Barnes has not graduated but is working with the university to resolve the incomplete course.
Barnes argued in the wake of the Isthmus interview that a campaign staffer mistakenly filled out the questionnaire. He hasn't addressed why he told the Journal Sentinel he finished school.
Evers and Barnes appeared together Friday at a news conference touting renewable energy goals.
When a reporter asked if Evers felt Barnes has been truthful about whether he graduated, Barnes jumped in before the governor could answer, saying he "absolutely has been" truthful.
After the reporter told Barnes that the governor had been asked the question, Evers leaned into the podium and said "I've talked to the lieutenant governor about all sorts of things, including this, and I feel confident that he's been truthful."
Later in the news conference another reporter asked Evers to explain why he thought Barnes had been truthful. Again Barnes jumped in before Evers could respond.
"Hey, Mandela here," he said. "I'm actually here."
The reporter said he was looking for Evers' opinion, to which Barnes replied that the questionnaire came from his campaign staff.
"That didn't come from me," Barnes said. He then added his name is in "the graduation book."
"I was literally there. I didn't just pop up and say 'oh, hey, guys,'" he said. It wasn't clear if he was referring to A&M's graduation ceremony. Barnes last year posted photos of himself in a cap and gown at A&M's 2008 graduation ceremony.
One of Evers' media staff told the governor he could answer the question.
"Right," Evers said. "I believe those responses are responsible responses, and as a result I believe that he's been truthful."
Barnes drew criticism earlier this year for failing to pay $2,225 in city of Milwaukee property taxes on his condominium. He also allowed a $108 fine for parking tickets go unpaid for more than a year.
Barnes also came under scrutiny this year for seeking extensive protection from the Wisconsin State Patrol. The patrol's records showed that as of May he had recorded nine times more hours of security protection during his first two months in office than his GOP predecessor, Rebecca Kleefisch, had in all of 2018. Republicans accused him of misusing taxpayer money.