Favre seeks dismissal from Mississippi welfare funds lawsuit

Brett Favre’s lawyers are again asking a Mississippi judge to dismiss the retired NFL quarterback from a lawsuit that demands repayment of millions of dollars of welfare money

Emily Wagster Pettus
Saturday 11 February 2023 00:23 GMT

Brett Favre's lawyers filed papers Friday again asking a Mississippi judge to dismiss the retired NFL quarterback from a lawsuit that demands repayment of millions of dollars of welfare money intended to help some of the poorest people in the U.S.

The Mississippi Department of Human Services last year sued Favre and more than three dozen other people or businesses. The suit says money from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program was improperly spent, including on projects Favre supported: $5 million for a volleyball arena at the university where Favre's daughter played the sport and $1.7 million toward development of a concussion treatment drug.

“It is apparent that MDHS has sued Favre, a Mississippi and national celebrity, to try to deflect responsibility for its own egregious wrongdoing in allowing tens of millions of dollars of its public funds to be misspent — funds for which MDHS itself admits it was ‘exclusively responsible,’” said the filing Friday by Favre's lawyers, including Eric D. Herschmann of Austin, Texas.

Favre, who lives in Mississippi, sought to be dismissed from the state lawsuit in November, then the state revised its demand against him in December. The filing Friday responds to the state's December demand.

The latest attempt to get out of the state lawsuit came a day after Favre filed three defamation lawsuits against Mississippi Auditor Shad White and two former NFL players who have sharply criticized Favre in their roles as national sportscasters — Pat McAfee and Shannon Sharpe.

On his podcast Friday, McAfee scoffed at the defamation suit. He said he received a “warning shot” from Favre's lawyers before it was filed, in a letter that demanded he erase every video he had recorded that included mentions of Favre and the alleged misspending of welfare money.

“I looked at that. I said, ‘That is hilarious.' Of course we're not doing that," McAfee said on "The Pat McAfee Show.”

McAfee said Favre's lawyers also demanded that he publicly apologize to Favre by Wednesday evening. Talking to others in his studio, McAfee said: “I'm one of the worst apologizers in the word.”

In the lawsuit against McAfee, Favre said McAfee had used “outrageous falsehoods” that included calling Favre a “thief” who was “stealing from poor people in Mississippi.” McAfee said Friday that the lawsuit used quotes from him that were “certainly accurate.” He said he also frequently said “allegedly” when discussing Favre.

The lawsuit against White said the Republican state auditor “has carried out an outrageous media campaign of malicious and false accusations" against Favre to try to boost his own political career. Fletcher Freeman, a spokesperson for White, responded that White has spoken truthfully about the case with statements that are backed by years of work by professionals in the auditor's office.

In the suit against Sharpe, Favre said Sharpe made “egregiously false” statements about him on the Fox Sports talk show “Skip and Shannon: Undisputed,” including that Favre “stole money from people that really needed money.”

The Associated Press left phone messages for Sharpe on Thursday, seeking comment about the defamation lawsuits. He did not immediately respond to those messages and had not publicly responded by Friday.

John Davis, who was Mississippi Department of Human Services director from 2016 to mid-2019, pleaded guilty to state and federal charges last year in the Mississippi welfare scandal, and he agreed to testify against others in the state's largest public corruption case. His sentencing has been delayed.

No criminal charges have been brought against Favre. He has repaid $1.1 million he received for speaking fees from a nonprofit group that spent TANF money with approval from the Mississippi Department of Human Services. White said Favre never showed up to give the speeches.

Favre’s daughter started playing volleyball at his alma mater, the University of Southern Mississippi, in 2017. The volleyball arena was a pet project of the NFL Hall of Fame quarterback and he pledged to lead fundraising efforts for it. Previous filings in the state’s civil lawsuit show text message exchanges between Favre and others about directing money to the volleyball facility from a nonprofit organization that had Department of Human Services contracts.

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