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Brett Favre's alleged involvement in welfare scandal gets even uglier

Text messages suggest the NFL legend and former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant were eager participants in a scheme to divert money meant for poor children.


Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre’s reputation has already been tarnished by scandals involving text messages. In one, you may remember, Favre settled out of court with two massage therapists back in 2013, after they had accused him of sending inappropriate and unsolicited sexual text messages to them while he played for the New York Jets in 2008. (Favre’s lawyers denied the allegations throughout the ordeal.)

Favre also was investigated by the NFL over allegations that he had sent inappropriate photos to a Jets TV host. The league ultimately said it could not conclude that he had violated the NFL’s conduct policies, but fined him $50,000 for failing to cooperate with the investigation.

Now, it looks like Favre’s phone behavior has him at the center of a more far-reaching scandal

That’s because Mississippi Today this week published a batch of text messages from Favre and former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant that paint both as eager participants in a scheme prosecutors say was aimed at bilking millions of federal dollars from a state program meant for poor children and families.  

The texts were revealed after a nonprofit manager who also was accused of skimming from the fund, Nancy New, filed the messages as evidence in a state civil suit involving her, Favre, Bryant and a host of other well-connected Mississippi conservatives who are alleged to have received tens of millions of dollars in handouts with the help of the state welfare agency’s then-director, John Davis.  

New and her son have pleaded guilty to misusing public funds in exchange for their testimony. Davis has pleaded not guilty in the case and is awaiting trial.

Brett Favre
Former NFL quarterback Brett Favre, in 2018. Rogelio V. Solis / AP, file

As I wrote a couple of weeks back, this type of exploitative scandal involving white conservatives funneling funds from poor Mississippians, who are disproportionately Black, is a centuries-long problem that reared itself most recently in the failure of the crumbling water system in Jackson, Mississippi. 

But don’t let the normalcy of that tradition fool you: The details of Favre’s seeming corruption are grotesque. 

According to Mississippi Today, the text messages show that Favre sought at least $5 million from the welfare program to build a volleyball stadium at the University of Southern Mississippi, where his daughter played the sport. Favre received most of the credit for raising the money, Mississippi Today reported.

In one text exchange, Favre specifically asks New whether payments to him could be kept secret. “If you were to pay me is there anyway the media can find out where it came from and how much?” Favre asked. That’s particularly damning given that Favre has claimed he didn’t know the money he received had come from a fund meant for poor kids. 

New tells him — incorrectly — no. And after she told Favre that then-Gov. Bryant had signed off on the deal, Favre replied, “Awesome I needed to hear that for sure.”

Favre and Bryant have not been charged with a crime, though Favre has been questioned by the FBI. Favre has said that he believes he did nothing wrong, and his lawyer told NBC News that there is nothing remarkable about the newly released texts. In a statement, Bryant attorney Billy Quin said the former governor had agreed to produce the texts and said cases should be tried in court, not the press.

The newly released messages, however, seem to suggest a consciousness of guilt on Favre’s part, and they may add to Bryant’s potential criminal exposure as well, depending on what other facts come out. The former governor has denied that he was intimately involved in shunting the welfare money to his friends, but one message Favre allegedly received from New suggested that there was a plan introduced to name the volleyball facility after Bryant. Potentially, as a political favor. 

The revelations this week indicate the story around the alleged corruption is far from over. And Brett Favre’s descent in the eyes of the public seems all but certain to continue.