Retired NFL star Brett Favre questioned the legality of $1.1 million in payments he received from a state-affiliated nonprofit after Mississippi investigators revealed the money came from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families welfare funds, newly unveiled text messages show.

Mississippi State Auditor Shad White made screenshots of the texts available in an April 2 court filing in the Hinds County Circuit Court, where Favre is suing him and alleging that the auditor defamed him in comments he made about the famous quarterback’s role in the welfare scandal. Prosecutors have not accused Favre of a crime, though he is a target in a state civil lawsuit. Front Office Sports Senior Reporter A.J. Perez first posted the texts on Twitter yesterday.

Read State Auditor Shad White’s April 2, 2024, court filing.

“Is the money I was paid 100% legal for the radio commercials?” Favre wrote in a text message to Mississippi Community Education Center nonprofit operator Nancy New on May 13, 2020.

Prosecutors had indicted New and five others on felony charges earlier that year, including her son Zachary New former Mississippi Department of Human Services Director John Davis, accusing them of directing millions in welfare funds to illegal purposes.

That included millions in TANF funds her nonprofit directed to Prevacus, a pharmaceutical company that Favre was invested in alongside its founder, Jake VanLandingham (a civil defendant who investigators have accused of a crime). New and Davis separately directed millions to a volleyball stadium project Favre wanted at his alma mater where his daughter played volleyball, the University of Southern Mississippi, along with multiple other projects unrelated to Favre.

New’s nonprofit also used TANF funds to pay Favre $1.1 million to give speeches and record promotional materials, with the first $500,000 payment arriving in December 2017.

“Nancy Santa came today and dropped some money off☺️☺️ thank you my goodness thank you,” Favre wrote to New on Dec. 27, 2017, in texts that appeared in court filings in the civil lawsuit in 2022. “We need to setup the promo for you soon. Your way to kind.”

In a text on May 13, 2020, Brett Favre asked indicted nonprofit leader Nancy New whether $1.1 million he received in welfare funds to record commercials was “100% legal.” She assured him it was.

White revealed that the football star had received $1.1 million in TANF payments in an audit his office released on April 30, 2020. Several days later, on May 6, 2020, Favre paid back $500,000 and vowed to pay back the rest. The quarterback said he had not known the funds he received came from welfare money and that he “would never knowingly do anything to take away from those that need it most.” (He has similarly denied knowing that the Prevacus or volleyball money came from TANF funds).

The screenshots of Favre and New’s May 13, 2020, text messages that White published in his filing do not appear to include New’s reply to Favre’s question about whether the $1.1 payment was legal, but invisible text in the filings show New’s response that the auditor’s office apparently attempted to redact.

“Yes, it was,” New replied, noting that a commercial Favre recorded aired on SuperTalk radio. “Brett, I promise I did not do anything wrong,” she added, noting that “Davis and others approved budgets we had.” The new texts do not mention former Gov. Phil Bryant, despite years of unproven speculation that he may have played a role in the scandal because he led the state during the time it was unfolding. He has denied those allegations and often points out that he sent the tip to the state auditor’s office that began the investigation that unraveled the welfare scandal. Investigators have not accused Bryant of wrongdoing.

White’s filing also includes a newly revealed text message that Favre sent New the next day on May 14, 2020.

“Brett, I am so scared because of Prevacus. I did exactly what John (Davis) committed us to do. We never took anything or signed any stock options. In the public’s eyes I am guilty and I am ruined,” New wrote. “I am losing everything and may have to go to jail. I am so afraid. Don’t know what which way to turn. Just keep praying. Anyway, you are definitely right to say you did the work, but best not to say too much more as it definitely will be twisted.”

Favre offered a one-word reply: “Ok.”

In a May 14, 2020, text message, the indicted nonprofit director Nancy New expressed concern to Brett Favre that she could go to prison over her role in the welfare scandal.

Since then, Davis, both News and other defendants have entered guilty pleas on state and federal charges, though the courts have not yet sentenced any of the criminal defendants. After a demand letter from White in 2021, Favre repaid the rest of the $1.1 million, excluding $228,000 in interest. Favre has repeatedly disputed White’s claim that he did not do perform work in exchange for the $1.1 million payment.

The State is still attempting to recover millions from Favre related to Prevacus and the volleyball project in its ongoing civil lawsuit that targets dozens of individuals and organizations that MDHS says received misused TANF funds.

Read more of our coverage of the Mississippi welfare scandal here.

Award-winning News Editor Ashton Pittman, a native of the South Mississippi Pine Belt, studied journalism and political science at the University of Southern Mississippi. Previously the state reporter at the Jackson Free Press, he drove national headlines and conversations with award-winning reporting about segregation academies. He has won numerous awards, including Outstanding New Journalist in the South, for his work covering immigration raids, abortion battles and even former Gov. Phil Bryant’s unusual work with “The Bad Boys of Brexit" at the Jackson Free Press. In 2021, as a Crirec reporter, he was named the Diamond Journalist of the Year for seven southern U.S. states in the Society of Professional Journalists Diamond Awards. A trained photojournalist, Ashton lives in South Mississippi with his husband, William, and their two pit bulls, Dorothy and Dru. Follow on Twitter @ashtonpittman. Send tips to [email protected].

William Pittman is a native of Pascagoula, Miss., and has won multiple awards for his investigative data and elections work for the Crirec since 2020.