Matt Whitaker’s brief tenure as acting attorney general has seen no shortage of controversies and disputes over his qualifications for the job. Chalk up one more: His academic record.
Whitaker incorrectly claimed to have been named Academic All-American while playing football for the University of Iowa on his resume as well as other government documents, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
He also listed the high honor on a 2010 application to become a judge in Iowa. And a Justice Department press release, issued when Whitaker left his post as U.S. Attorney in Iowa in 2009, said he’d been “an academic All-American football player,” the Journal reported.
In fact, Whitaker received a lesser award, according to CoSIDA, the organization that oversees the program. He was given the academic All-District honor in 1992, Barb Kowal, a spokeswoman for CoSIDA, told VICE News in an email Wednesday.
But the discrepancy may have arisen, in part, from confusion over terminology used by the University of Iowa and others to describe the overall program and the two different awards, Kowal wrote.
“The Academic All-District honors are part of our Academic All-America program,” Kowal said. “We know that people over time use both award terms together, interchangeably. The University of Iowa 1993 football media guide listed Mr. Whitaker’s honors with terminology using the program’s complete name — ‘GTE District VII academic All-American’ — to refer to his award.”
The company GTE sponsored the program at the time, Kowal said.
A student athlete must maintain a 3.3 grade point average and be a starter or important reserve on the athlete’s team in order to be considered for the All-American distinction.
“We agree with the statement issued by University of Iowa Assistant Athletics Director Steve Roe to Wall Street Journal reporter Mark Maremont for Mr. Maremont’s original story: ‘If there is confusion at all, part of it could be how we listed it in our media guide,’” Kowal wrote.
The DOJ didn’t immediately responded to a request for comment from VICE News.
Whitaker’s background was already facing deep skepticism thanks to his work for a “scam” invention-promotion firm, which hawked fantastical ideas like time-travel technology, “masculine” toilets for well-endowed men, and the hunt for Bigfoot.
National politicians and former DOJ officials have charged that Whitaker’s appointment as acting attorney general might not even be legally sound, and said his primary qualification for the post appears to have been the public criticism he’s leveled at special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into President Trump’s ties to Russia.
His critical comments of Mueller prompted internal Department of Justice ethics officials to advise that he recuse himself from the Mueller probe. Last week, Whitaker rejected his colleagues’ advice.
Whitaker joined the Justice Department after a stint on the board of a Florida-based company called World Patent Marketing — which was shut down by a federal judge this year after being accused by the Federal Trade Commission of running "a scam that has bilked thousands of consumers out of millions of dollars.”
Whitaker also served as executive director for the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, or FACT, a shadowy conservative watchdog. He was the only known employee of FACT, which paid him $1.2 million over three years.
Whitaker’s resume was included in documents released in November by the FTC.
Cover image: Acting Attorney General Matthew G. Whitaker points to a group of U.S. Attorneys while speaking at the Project Safe Neighborhoods National Conference in Kansas City, Mo., Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)