Days before last year’s Super Bowl, Brett Favre sued Shannon Sharpe, Pat McAfee, and Mississippi State Auditor Shad White over statements each made about the Hall of Fame quarterback’s ties to a massive and ongoing state welfare scandal in which Favre allegedly has ties to tens of millions of dollars in welfare funds being misappropriated.
White returned the favor Monday.
White filed a countersuit in Hinds County (Miss.) Circuit Court against Favre seeking nearly $729,000, which includes $437,000 in principal and $292,790 in unpaid interest related to the $1.1 million in welfare funds Favre received. That money was paid to Favre—through a scheme that led its plotters to plead guilty to fraud charges—in exchange for his performing speeches, signing autographs and recording a public service announcement.
“It boggles the mind that Mr. Favre could imagine he is entitled to the equivalent of an interest-free loan of $1.1 million in taxpayer money, especially money intended for the benefit of the poor,” White said in a statement.
Investigators for the Mississippi State Auditor Office found that Favre “did not speak, nor was he present for those events.” And in the end, Favre was still paid, with the money sourced from the federal government Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, funds Mississippi received to help the most impoverished families in the poorest state in the union.
Favre has denied any wrongdoing in the case and has not been charged criminally. After White made public the payments to Favre, in April 2020, Favre eventually repaid the $1.1 million in two installments: $500,000 (in May ’20) and $600,000 (October ’21).
Nancy New and her son, Zach, founded the Mississippi Community Education Center, a nonprofit through which the TANF funds were funneled to Favre. And the News, along with John Davis, the director of the Department of Human Services during the scheme, have all pleaded guilty to federal charges. (Notably, court docs revealed that Favre texted Nancy New in July 2017: “Will the public perception be that I became a spokesperson for various state-funded shelters, schools, homes, etc. … and was compensated with state money? Or can we keep this confidential?”)
Now, White is suing to recover the interest money for Mississippi via a counterclaim in the same defamation lawsuit where he remains a defendant. That lawsuit is the only one of the three he filed in February 2023 that remains active on the trial court level. McAfee settled with Favre, which included a clarification but no money changing hands. And Sharpe’s case was dismissed by a judge with prejudice in November. (Favre appealed that decision, and the appeal is still pending.) White’s motion to dismiss Favre’s defamation lawsuit, meanwhile, was denied by Hinds County Circuit Court Judge E. Faye Peterson on Jan. 25 and is the only one to reach the discovery stage.
Favre remains among the 40-plus defendants in a lawsuit filed by the Mississippi Department of Human Services, which seeks to recover more than $77 million in misappropriated TANF funds. The claim related to the $1.1 million at issue in the countersuit was dropped against Favre Enterprises after Favre repaid the principal, but he remains a defendant over the $5 million in TANF funds he allegedly helped secure for a volleyball arena at the University of Southern Mississippi and another $1.7 million for Prevacus, a drug company that counted Favre as its largest investor.
An outside law firm is handling the MDHS lawsuit, not the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office, which is led by Lynn Fitch. Fitch has been criticized for taking such a hands-off approach to the largest public corruption scandal in Mississippi history. Beyond the AG’s office not working the civil case, Fitch’s lawyers have not filed a single criminal count against any of those involved, forcing county and federal authorities to fill the void.
After Fitch became aware last month about an upcoming book by White on the scandal, which is believed to paint Fitch’s office in a negative light, she pulled AG lawyers from defending White’s defamation case. White’s case is now being defended by lawyers in his own office.
“Now that lawyers from the Office of the State Auditor are trying this case, we are going to ensure Mr. Favre is held accountable for his acts and omissions,” White said.