Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre, who remains embroiled in the largest welfare fraud scandal in Mississippi state history, filed three separate defamation lawsuits Thursday against state auditor Shad White as well as national sports commentators Shannon Sharpe and Pat McAfee.
Favre’s lawsuit against White, whose office first discovered the fraudulent spending that ultimately led to criminal charges against six people, accuses White of “shamelessly and falsely attacking Favre’s good name” to advance his political career. Favre has not been criminally charged.
“White has made egregiously false and defamatory statements accusing Favre of ‘stealing taxpayer funds’ and knowingly misusing funds ‘designed to serve poor folks,'” the lawsuit states.
“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,” Fletcher Freeman, a spokesman for the State Auditor’s office, said Thursday in response to Favre’s lawsuit.
Favre became involved in the public fraud case in 2020 after investigators in White’s office discovered that at least $77 million in public money from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds, earmarked for the neediest families in the state, instead was used to line the pockets of rich and powerful Mississippians.
According to a state audit and civil lawsuit in which Favre and dozens of others are named as defendants, Favre was paid $1.1 million in TANF funds for speeches White has said Favre never made. Favre eventually paid the money back, but the state auditor has asked Favre to also pay $228,000 in interest.
The athletic foundation at Favre’s alma mater, the University of Southern Mississippi, also received $5 million in TANF funds, according to a state audit. Text messages show Favre pushed state officials for funding for a new volleyball facility on campus during the time his daughter was on the team.
“Mr. Favre has called Auditor White and his team liars despite repaying some of the money our office demanded from him,” Freeman said Thursday. “He’s also claimed the auditors are liars despite clear documentary evidence showing he benefited 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’s attorneys said in their lawsuit that they have seen “no records indicating Mr. Favre knew” that the money provided for speeches or for his alma mater was from TANF funds.
Favre’s lawsuit against Sharpe, an NFL veteran of 14 seasons who now serves as co-host of Fox Sports 1’s “Skip and Shannon: Undisputed,” alleges that Sharpe defamed Favre by saying on his broadcast that Favre was a “sorry mofo to steal from the lowest of the low,” and that Favre “stole money from people who really needed that money.”
Similar allegations were made in the lawsuit filed by Favre against former NFL punter and popular sports commentator Pat McAfee. According to the suit, McAfee called Favre a “thief” who was “stealing from poor people in Mississippi” on “The Pat McAfee Show.” The suit also accuses McAfee of making similar remarks on Twitter. (McAfee also works for ESPN.)
Favre’s spokesperson declined to comment on the lawsuits.
His lawsuits note the numerous charities that have benefited from his Favre 4 Hope foundation, which says it supports “disadvantaged and disabled children and breast cancer patients,” and that Favre has supported causes including Southern Mississippi “and the development of medication to treat and prevent concussions.” But tax records revealed Favre’s alma mater was the major recipient of his charitable giving. Prevacus, a company developing a concussion drug for which Favre was the top outside investor, also received TANF funds, according to the state audit.