Mississippi State Auditor Shad White is accusing NFL Hall of Fame football player Brett Favre of lying about whether or not he gave speeches he was obligated to give in exchange for $1.1 million in state welfare funds.
Favre received the money from a nonprofit whose operator, Nancy New, is among six people charged in an alleged scheme to funnel millions in Temporary Assistance For Needy Families funds out of the Mississippi Department of Human Services and toward other causes—including paying celebrities for speeches the auditor says they never gave.
“As I have said before, I would never accept money for no-show appearances, as the state of Mississippi auditor, @ShadWhite, claims,” Favre, who has previously denied that the contract required him to give speeches, tweeted this morning at 6:15 a.m.. “I am doing all that I can to support this investigation to make things right for the people of Mississippi and I have shared all that I know, which is that I was paid for three years of commercials that I did, and I paid taxes on the money, as I should.”
Favre Claims He Was Not Paid For Speeches
The former NFL star returned $500,000 in May 2020, several months after news broke of the indictments and the allegedly illicit nature of the payments. Though he was not accused of wrongdoing himself, the famed quarterback vowed to return the full amount, but did not make another payment until this week, after receiving a demand letter for $828,000 from the state auditor’s office.
“Of course the money was returned because I would never knowingly take funds meant to help our neighbors in need, but for Shad White to continue to push out this lie that the money was for no-show events is something I cannot stay silent about,” Favre wrote this morning. “Despite all efforts to seek clarification with the auditor, he has never granted a call back or a meeting with me, but has instead only repeatedly run to the media.”
“Prioritizing sensational headlines over seeking truth is doing a disservice to the people of our great state who deserve answers and a resolution.”
White responded to Favre’s tweets at 7:44 a.m.
“These are lies, @BrettFavre. I am not going to hide how much you were paid, why you were paid, or conduct back room meetings to make this go away,” the state auditor tweeted. “The contract that justified the payment of $1.1 million in welfare money to you said you were to ‘speak at three (3) total speaking engagements,’ ‘provide one (1) radio spot during the contract period,’ and ‘provide one (1) keynote speaking engagement.’ The CPA for Favre Enterprises confirmed this was your contract.
“You did not give the speeches. You have acknowledged this in statements to my agents. To suggest my office has not met with you is a lie as well. You have met with agents who work for me. They showed you the contract. They showed you the emails confirming the contract quoted above is how you were paid. To suggest I have only communicated this to you via the media is wrong. I’m doing my job—that’s it. You can continue to use your megaphone as a celebrity to drown out the facts, but it will not change the facts.”
The discourse represents a shift from May 2020, when White responded to Favre’s vow to return the full amount by saying he believed the football star was acting in “good faith” and that he had “seen no records indicating Mr. Favre knew that (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) was the program that served as the source of the money he was paid.” Mississippi Today’s Anna Wolfe Wolfe was the first to report on Favre’s involvement in early 2020.
The Mississippi Free Press could not reach Favre for comment this morning.
Favre Repaid $600,000, Still Owes $223,000
This week, White’s office confirmed to several publications, including the Mississippi Free Press, that Favre Enterprises returned another $600,000 after receiving the demand letter. Favre still owes $228,000 in interest payments, however, White’s office said. Though not accused of any criminal wrongdoing, Favre could face a civil lawsuit if he does not return the remaining funds within 30 days of receiving the auditor’s demand letter on Oct. 12.
“Two nonprofits, the Mississippi Community Education Center (MCEC) and the Family Resource Center (FRC), either misspent or improperly dispersed portions of that $77 million, meaning the money was ultimately misspent by a vendor to the nonprofit,” White said in an Oct. 12 statement.
The auditor said at the time that his office was “in a position to demand the illegally spent welfare funds be returned to the state” following the completion of a federal audit.
White also issued a demand letter to former Mississippi Department of Human Services Director John Davis for $96.3 million, including interest, “for his role authorizing over $77 million in illegal TANF spending.”
Davis and New, the founder of the nonprofits involved in the case, pleaded not guilty last year to state charges stemming from the DHS scandal. In March, federal prosecutors indicted New and her son Zachary New on additional charges, alleging that they had “conspired” to “fraudulently” obtain more than $2 million in public education funds and used it to pay for teachers’ salaries at a private school Nancy New owned and operated in Jackson. The News have denied the allegations.