Now, Deneeta Pope, 40, and an Obama supporter, is speaking out for the first time about the relationship that opened his eyes to racism
The cheerleader who Paul Ryan dated in college and helped forge his uncompromising opposition to racism says that she may not be a Republican but still supports the ‘nice guy’.
Speaking exclusively to MailOnline, Deneeta Pope said she met the future vice presidential candidate through friends at Miami University some 20 years ago.
Pope, 40, said: ‘Paul is a very nice guy, a kind guy and a family guy. He’s very approachable and a very likeable person.’
The relationship and the negative reaction he said he suffered from his so-called friends were a formative experience in the political evolution of the VP pick who described himself as a ‘big, big fan’ of Martin Luther King and is a staunch advocate of civil rights.
But Pope, an I.T. specialist and realtor living in Chicago, denies that they experienced any racism as a couple.
Pope also said that while their relationship was not very serious, they have remained friends through the years.
‘It tells you the kind of guy Paul is when you learn that he has remained friends with all of his friends that he met in college.’
Michael Steel, campaign spokesman for Ryan, confirmed to MailOnline on Thursday that ‘Mr Ryan dated Ms Pope in college’ in the 1990s.
In a 2005 interview, Mitt Romney’s future running mate said that he had been confronted with racism personally, because he had dated an African- American and also had a brother with a black wife. ‘I have a sister-in-law who’s African American,’ he told Milwaukee Magazine.
‘My college sweetheart was black,’ he added.
‘I just experienced some ugly comments, some racist views from people who I thought were friends of mine.’