Former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre said in a statement to Fox News Digital that he had been “unjustly smeared in the media” for his role in the Mississippi welfare fraud scandal, which has already resulted in guilty pleas for three major players in the case over misappropriated federal funds.
Favre has not been charged with a crime after money intended for a new volleyball facility at the University of Southern Mississippi was illegally taken from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families fund, which is money distributed by the federal government to each state in the United States. The state’s department of human services, led by director John Davis, channeled TANF funds to nonprofits, including one that paid $5 million for the facility’s construction at Favre’s request.
Five people have pled guilty to state charges in the scandal, including nonprofit employees Nancy and Zach New and Davis, totaling an estimated $77 million in misappropriated funds.
Text messages revealed that Favre communicated frequently with state officials about the facility, which cannot be legally covered by TANF funds as a “brick and mortar” expenditure.
“No one ever told me, and I was unaware, that funds designated for welfare recipients were being diverted to the University or me,” Favre said in a statement. “I attempted to raise funds for a wellness center at my alma mater, USM, a public Mississippi state university.” My goal has always been and will always be to improve the athletic facilities at my university.
“State agencies transferred funds to Nancy New’s charity, the Mississippi Community Education Center, which then transferred funds to the University, all with the full knowledge and approval of other State agencies, including the State-wide Institute for Higher Learning, the Governor’s office, and the Attorney General’s office.” I was told that state attorneys and state employees did the legal work to ensure that these funds could be accepted by the university.”
Favre also denied being asked to deliver speeches that he did not deliver. According to the Mississippi state auditor, he is being sued by the state of Mississippi for interest on the $1.1 million he was paid for cutting radio spots and agreeing to give those speeches. Favre has refunded the $1.1 million itself.
An exchange Favre had with Nancy New was revealed in court filings in September: “If you were to pay me, is there any way for the media to find out where it came from and how much?” Favre inquired, and New assured him that the information would not be made public.
The audit also discovered that Prevacus, a biomedical startup led by Favre, received TANF funds.
“Those kinds of text messages suggest that he didn’t want the information out, that he knew there was something that suggested that if it came out, it wouldn’t be favorable,” Mississippi state auditor Shad White told Fox News Digital. “And there are also text messages that show that information had been communicated to him by somebody at the university that they would be nervous about the money flowing for some of these projects.”
White, whose office has played a key role in unraveling the scope of the scandal, stated on the ESPN “Daily” podcast in late September that a large portion of the negative messages he received came from Wisconsin. He stated that his office’s role was to provide information that prosecutors could use to make decisions, but that his office had no say in what happened after that.
“I had the facts on my side,” White said on the podcast. “Over time, I knew that the statements we were making and the findings that we had in our audit would be proven out. It’s just in that interim period, where it takes the public some time to figure out, ‘Oh wait the state auditor’s not making this up,’ you have to weather a ton of criticism and, honestly, threats. … Most of the hateful messages that I got were mainly from the Wisconsin area. You just have to ignore it at the end of the day. That person doesn’t live here … I’m never going to meet them, and I have to keep doing my job.”