Deneeta Pope, an African-American former cheerleader, that Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan reportedly dated in college, spoke exclusively to the Daily Mail and provided insight into claims that she was his “college sweetheart.”
Pope, 40, says that she met Ryan through mutual friends while attending Miami University in Ohio 20 years ago.
In 2005, Ryan revealed in a statement to Milwaukee Magazine that he dated a black woman when he was in college. “I have a sister-in-law who’s African-American. My college sweetheart was black,” he said. “I just experienced some ugly comments; some racist views from people who I thought were friends of mine.”
Ryan’s campaign spokesman, Michael Steel, confirmed to the Daily Mail yesterday that “Mr. Ryan dated Ms. Pope in college. They dated in the mid-1990s, and broke up several years before Mr. Ryan met Mrs. Ryan [in 1999].”
Two years after Ryan’s freshman year, Pope arrived at Miami University, and eventually became a cheerleader for the college’s Redhawks football team. She reportedly worked out twice a day; running, kickboxing, and doing Pilates.
It is not clear when exactly Ryan and Pope met, but it was allegedly their love of fitness that brought them together.
Ryan Donmoyer, a journalist, who interviewed Ryan for P.O.V. Magazine in 1998, wrote that when Ryan was a freshman congressman for Wisconsin’s first district, he revealed that “he had dated a black former cheerleader for five years.” Donmoyer wrote that the couple’s relationship fizzled out when Ryan went to Washington D.C. to pursue a career in politics and Pope left Ohio to move to Chicago.
Pope, 40, who married her second husband in May, says that she is still friends with Ryan and his wife, Janna. “A week before his vice presidential nomination, Paul and Janna came to our wedding in Chicago to see Michael and I get married,” she said. “Paul is a very nice guy, a kind guy and a family guy. He’s very approachable and a very likeable person.”
A registered Democrat since 2008, Pope says she made three donations to Obama’s inaugural fund, each consisting of $324. “I am indeed a Democrat. That’s no secret. But although I have a different political association to Paul, I support him and wish him continued success.”
Although Pope is a Democrat, she did donate money to Ryan’s campaign funds in the past. According to the Federal Election Commission, Pope gave $1000 to Ryan’s republican primary campaign in 1998, while she was working for PricewaterhouseCoopers in Chicago. And she donated the same amount to his general election race.
Pope, who graduated from Miami University two years after Ryan, in 1994, is currently president and founder of Excel Solutions, a Chicago-based IT consulting company that specializes in software implementation, and also works as a realtor for @Properties in Chicago.