Mississippi, the country's poorest state, paid former NFL great Brett Favre more than a million dollars out of federal welfare funds for speeches never delivered, NBC News reported.
The Magnolia State paid Favre $1.1 million in 2017 and 2018 to make motivational speeches, NBC News said, with money originally targeted for needy families.
A July court filing alleged that former Gov. Phil Bryant, R-Miss., had instructed his wife’s friend — whose nonprofit was receiving millions in subgrants from the welfare department he oversaw — to pay Favre and others.
State auditor Shad White said Favre never gave the speeches and White demanded the money back, with interest.
Favre, who hasn't been accused of a crime or charged, has repaid the fees, although not the $228,000 in interest the auditor also demanded. His lawyer said the former quarterback did nothing wrong and never understood he was paid with money intended to help poor children.
Attorney Bud Holmes did admit that the FBI had questioned Favre in the case, NBC News reported.
Favre defended himself in a series of tweets last year against allegations that he accepted state money for speeches he never intended to give.
"Of course the money was returned because I would never knowingly take funds meant to help our neighbors in need, but for Shad White to continue to push out this lie that the money was for no-show events is something I cannot stay silent about," Favre tweeted.
NBC News said that a total of $70 million in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) welfare funds were given to Favre, a professional wrestler, a horse farm and a volleyball complex. A total of 38 grant recipients were sued by the state.
Although it surfaced 2½ years ago, the issue drew new attention in July, when the state welfare agency fired a lawyer who had been hired to recover some of the money. Brad Pigott was canned after issuing a subpoena seeking more information about the roles of Favre and Bryant.
"The notion of tens of millions of dollars that was intended by the country to go to the alleviation of poverty — and to see it going toward very different purposes — was appalling to many of us," Pigott told NBC News. "Mr. Favre was a very great quarterback, but having been a great NFL quarterback, he is not well acquainted with poverty."
A Bryant spokesperson told Mississippi Today that accusations the former governor knew the grants came from welfare money was "legal hogwash."
The U.S. Census Bureau reported in November that Mississippi (18.7%) had the nation’s highest poverty level in 2020.
Favre earned nearly $140 million during a 20-year Hall of Fame career and millions more in product endorsements.
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