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Brett Favre, welfare queen

The same people who denounce welfare don’t seem outraged over the former quarterback’s alleged misappropriation of antipoverty funds.

With his 2020 endorsement of Donald Trump, Brett Favre earned his conservative purity badge and a guarantee that those in the same political corner would always have his back. They don’t care that Favre has long been known as a louse.Patrick McDermott/Getty

If LeBron James had done even half of what Brett Favre has been accused of doing, Fox News and its Republican minions would be sharpening pitchforks and exploding with glee.

Instead their overwhelming silence is predictably on-brand.

Favre, a former NFL quarterback, reportedly misappropriated millions in welfare money in Mississippi to finance pet projects at the University of Southern Mississippi, his alma mater. Those funds were meant for a federal antipoverty program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

Then Favre allegedly went back to his buddies in state government for even more welfare money. In text messages revealed in a court filing, Favre continued leaning on state officials in Mississippi even after Phil Bryant, then the state’s governor, told him that was illegal. He texted Favre that “we have to follow the law. I am to [sic] old for Federal Prison.” Bryant ended the text with a smiley face wearing sunglasses.

With about $77 million believed misappropriated by various state officials, this is the largest public corruption case in Mississippi’s history. Nancy New, who led a nonprofit that funneled state welfare funds to Favre, has pleaded guilty to fraud. John Davis, a former director of Mississippi’s welfare agency who was also in contact with Favre, pleaded guilty to federal charges for redirecting millions away from their intended purpose.


Although the state of Mississippi has filed a civil lawsuit against Favre and others to recoup more than $20 million in welfare money, Favre, the biggest name in this scandal, has not been charged with any crime. His lawyer, Paul Holmes, claims his client didn’t know funding sought was siphoned from a federal welfare program.

While federal prosecutors will figure out what to do with Favre, there’s no limit to the ridicule and scorn he deserves. Good luck finding any in conservative circles. The same people who regularly decry welfare as a handout for the undeserving aren’t particularly outraged when millions of those state funds wind up in the already well-lined pockets of a favorite son of Mississippi. You won’t hear Republicans sneering that Favre should be pulling himself up by his bootstraps instead of opening his hand for a government check.


Compare that to what happened last year during Vice President Harris’s diplomatic trip to Paris. Fox News and other conservative outlets couldn’t stop jawing about the fact that Harris “spent over $500 on cookware in a Parisian shop amid rising inflation and economic uncertainty at home in the US.” Of course, one had nothing to do with the other. She used her own money to buy some pots and pans; yet Fox fashioned her into Marie Antoinette thumbing her nose at struggling Americans with neither a pot to pee in nor a window to throw it out of.

Right-wing politicians and pundits love to keep their supporters angry. The fastest way to spike that noxious brew is by manufacturing controversies about those they despise. But the opposite happens when it comes to those rich conservative white men in particular whom they hold dear — they can do no wrong even when the wrongdoing seems glaringly clear.

With his 2020 endorsement of Donald Trump, Favre earned his conservative purity badge and a guarantee that those in the same political corner would always have his back. They don’t care that Favre has long been known as a louse.


In 2013, he settled out of court with two massage therapists who said they were fired after complaining to New York Jets officials about unsolicited and lewd texts allegedly sent by Favre in 2008 to another therapist. He was also accused of sending explicit texts, voice mails, and photos to a woman who was a sideline reporter for the Jets.

None of this has prevented Favre from continuing to land prime jobs or remain in the good graces of his fans — or for that matter, Republicans convinced that rules are for other people. It’s not just that they may believe Favre has done nothing wrong — it’s that they simply don’t care. In their minds, being a conservative white man places him above the law and beyond reproach. After all, it’s not like he’s a powerful Black woman who bought fancy cookware in a tony Paris store.

For now, Favre’s ESPN podcast “The Brett Favre Show” and the weekly show he hosts on SiriusXM have been suspended. That’s a start but a long way from what he deserves. Let there be no misunderstanding. Favre earned about $150 million on and off the field during his 20-year career. And in a state with the nation’s largest percentage of Black residents, he reportedly took millions away from poor people in America’s most impoverished state.

Forget his gridiron glories. Call Favre what he really is — a hall of fame welfare queen.


Renée Graham is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at renee.graham@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @reneeygraham.