Brett Favre: 'I've done nothing wrong' in Mississippi welfare scandal
"I have been unjustly smeared in the media."
Former NFL quarterback decried media coverage of his connection to a scandal in which state funding intended for welfare recipients instead went to the University of Southern Mississippi.
"No one ever told me, and I did not know, that funds designated for welfare recipients were going to the University or me," Favre told Fox News. "I tried to help my alma mater USM, a public Mississippi state university, raise funds for a wellness center. My goal was and always will be to improve the athletic facilities at my university."
"I have been unjustly smeared in the media," he asserted. "I have done nothing wrong, and it is past time to set the record straight." Favre was a key fundraising leader in the effort to build a volleyball wellness center at the school he attended and where his daughter currently plays the sport.
The controversy stems from the facility's use of a $5 million grant from a Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) welfare fund. State auditor Shad White first identified the improper use of the TANF money and told Fox News that the construction did not qualify for such financial assistance.
"The volleyball court needed to be used to benefit the needy in Hattiesburg... And fast-forward to today, what we know now is that the volleyball court has not been used to benefit the needy," White told the outlet. "So, this is an unallowable use of TANF funds for a few different reasons. And for those reasons, it doesn't matter that the attorney signed off on this. What matters is that it simply is not an allowable use of TANF funds, and it's our job in the auditor's office to point that out when we see it."
Favre himself remains adamant he was unaware of any misconduct in the fundraising process for the center, though White insists he knew more than he admits. "[W]hether or not Mr. Favre knew that this money was specifically coming from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, there are no documents out in the public right now that suggest that," he added. "But he did know it was government money, and he did know that it was coming from this agency. And of course, that agency is the agency that is responsible for handling programs that are geared toward helping the poor," White asserted.
Tying Favre specifically to the scandal is his receipt of $1.1 million for promoting the facility, something the state auditor contends he never did. While Favre has since repaid the entire sum, he has not paid the interest on the figure, for which the state is suing him.
Favre's lawyers contend that the retired football star received payment for radio ads in which he did appear and that he was unaware of the source of his payment. "He had no idea that the payment came from TANF and had he known, he never would have accepted that money," Favre attorney Eric Herschmann told the outlet.