Felicity Huffman says she feels ‘undying shame’ for falsifying daughter’s SAT score in first interview since scandal

Actor Felicity Huffman said that she is left with “undying shame” that she paid $15,000 to falsify her daughter’s SAT score, but that at the time she felt it was the only way to give her child a promising future. 

The “Desperate Housewives” star broke her silence on the Operation Varsity Blues scandal — a $25 million bribery and fraud scheme exposed in 2019 that involved wealthy parents and celebrities who paid to get their children into elite colleges through edited scores or fake sports scholarships. 

“It felt like I had to give my daughter a chance at a future,” Huffman said in an exclusive interview with KABC in Los Angeles. “And so it was sort of like my daughter’s future, which meant I had to break the law.”

Huffman was accused of paying $15,000 to college fixer Rick Singer to cheat on her daughter Sophia Grace Macy’s SAT in 2017.

In September 2019, Huffman was sentenced to 14 days in prison, 250 hours of community service, one year of supervised release and a $30,000 fine after pleading guilty to a single count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest service mail fraud. She completed her supervised release in October 2020.

‘It felt like I would be a bad mother if I didn’t do it’

The day of the SAT test, Huffman recalled, she was feeling wracked with fear as her daughter didn’t know about the plan to falsify her score.

“She was going, ‘Can we get ice cream afterwards? I’m scared about the test. What can we do that’s fun?’ And I kept thinking, turn around, just turn around. And to my undying shame, I didn’t,” the Oscar nominee said. 

Huffman said she reached out to Singer, a college counselor considered the mastermind of Operation Varsity Blues, but didn’t intend to break the law. 

“After a year, he started to say your daughter is not going to get into any of the colleges that she wants to,” she said. “And I believed him.”

“So when he slowly started to present the criminal scheme, it seems like — and I know this seems crazy at the time — but that was my only option to give my daughter a future. I know hindsight is 20/20 but it felt like I would be a bad mother if I didn’t do it. So, I did it,” Huffman added.

When the FBI arrived at her door, Huffman said, she was in disbelief.

“I thought it was a hoax. I literally turned to one of the FBI people, in a flak jacket and a gun, and I went, ‘Is this a joke?'” she recalled.

“They came into my home. They woke my daughters up at gunpoint. Again, nothing new to the Black and brown community. Then they put my hands behind my back and handcuffed me and I asked if I could get dressed,” Huffman said.

Soon after, the scandal was made public and Huffman found herself making headlines.

She wasn’t the only actor involved. “Full House” actor Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, admitted in May 2020 to paying $500,000 to Singer and his Key Worldwide Foundation to falsely designate her daughters, Olivia Jade Giannulli and Isabella Rose Giannulli, as recruits to the University of Southern California crew team despite neither of them being rowers.

Eventually, Huffman tearfully pleaded guilty in May 2019 in Boston federal court.

She also apologized in a statement, saying she was “ashamed” for what she did to her family.

“I want to apologize to them and, especially, I want to apologize to the students who work hard every day to get into college, and to their parents who make tremendous sacrifices to support their children and do so honestly,” Huffman said.

Despite having a college offer rescinded after news of her mother’s scandal broke out, Sophia Macy ended up being admitted into Carnegie Mellon University’s prestigious drama program.

Time of service

Huffman served her community service hours with A New Way of Life, a nonprofit organization founded by Susan Burton that helps formerly incarcerated women reintegrate into society with housing, clothing and job training. When her court-ordered hours were up, she joined the board of the organization.

“I said, ‘I’m here to apply to work but I understand if you don’t want me.’ And Susan looked at me and said, ‘I want you!'” Huffman recalled.

Burton said Huffman came ready to do the hard work.

“I thought we would bring her in and put her at a desk and have her work in the office. And she said, ‘No. I want to do real work,'” Burton said. “She just organized all of our closets and donations. She went jogging down Central Avenue in South LA and created exercise classes for the women.”

“Felicity Huffman is one of the most beautiful people I’ve met in my lifetime. And I know she has had a hiccup. But it’s not the hiccup — it’s how you come through the hiccup,” she added.

For Huffman, her service with the group is the silver lining of the scandal.

“When I saw what A New Way of Life was doing, which is they heal one woman at a time — and if you heal one woman, you heal her children, you heal her grandchildren and you heal the community,” she said.

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