Brett Favre sues Auditor Shad White, national media figures for defamation regarding welfare scandal
Published 4:47 pm Thursday, February 9, 2023
by Anna Wolfe and Adam Ganucheau, Mississippi Today
February 9, 2023
Brett Favre, the NFL legend who has become publicly ensnared in the sprawling Mississippi welfare scandal, sued state Auditor Shad White and national sports media figures Shannon Sharpe and Pat McAfee for defamation.
White, whose investigation of welfare misspending led to 2020 criminal charges of six people, is one of the most prominent officials to publicly discuss the scandal. Several times in recent months, White has criticized Favre’s involvement in the scandal and even got into a tense social media back-and-forth with the Hall of Fame quarterback.
Attorneys for Favre, who has not been charged with any crime related to the scandal, argued in the new lawsuit that White has “made egregiously false and defamatory statements” in several media appearances.
“Shad White, the State Auditor of Mississippi, has carried out an outrageous media campaign of malicious and false accusations against Brett Favre — the Hall of Fame quarterback and native son of Mississippi — in a brazen attempt to leverage the media attention generated by Favre’s celebrity to further his own political career,” reads Favre’s complaint, filed in Hinds County Circuit Court on Feb. 9.
Favre’s complaint against White continues: “By shamelessly and falsely attacking Favre’s good name, White has gained national media attention he previously could have only dreamed of, including appearances on television shows on CNN and HBO, a popular ESPN podcast, as well as interviews for print and online media. None of these national media outlets would have paid White the slightest attention had he not been attacking Favre. White himself acknowledged this, admitting that his own wife was “shocked” by his appearance on the ESPN Daily Podcast.”
White’s office released a statement shortly after the lawsuit was filed on Thursday.
”Everything Auditor White has said about this case is true and is backed by years of audit work by the professionals at the Office of the State Auditor,” White’s spokesman Fletcher Freeman said. “It’s mind-boggling that Mr. Favre wants to have a trial about that question. Mr. Favre has called Auditor White and his team liars despite repaying some of the money our office demanded from him. He’s also claimed the auditors are liars despite clear documentary evidence showing he benefitted from misspent funds. Instead of paying New York litigators to try this case, he’d be better off fully repaying the amount of welfare funds he owes the state.”
Favre also sued media figures Shannon Sharpe and Pat McAfee, who each have popular national platforms to discuss sports news and analysis, for defamation.
Mississippi Today’s 2022 “The Backchannel” investigation revealed how Favre received welfare funds for several projects, including funding for his startup pharmaceutical company.
Never-before-seen text messages showed former Gov. Phil Bryant discussed Favre’s proposal to build a new volleyball stadium — construction ultimately funded with welfare funds. Prosecutors have called the project a scheme to defraud the government.