Former Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant has initiated a defamation lawsuit against the news organization Mississippi Today and its top executive, Mary Margaret White, reports WLBT. This follows accusations associating Bryant with the largest welfare fraud incident in the state, made both in public statements and in print.
The suit for defamation was brought forward in the Madison County Circuit Court by Bryant on Tuesday. The suit is against the non-profit organization that operates Mississippi Today, as well as against its CEO, Mary Margaret White.
Bryant is of the view that his reputation has been unfairly damaged by Mississippi Today’s reportage of the welfare fraud incident in Mississippi. The incident involved the misappropriation or theft of $77 million in welfare funds, discovered by independent auditors in 2020. This occurred during Bryant’s last term in office within the Mississippi Department of Human Services.
The fraud was uncovered when the Former MDHS Director, John Davis, admitted to federal and state charges in 2022. The probe into the misused funds has now broadened to encompass various state officials, bureaucrats, and even high-profile athletes, including retired NFL quarterback Brett Favre.
In his lawsuit against Mississippi Today, the court records suggest Bryant is pursuing compensatory and punitive damages, as well as the recovery of legal costs. He is also demanding a jury trial.
Throughout, Bryant has continually asserted his innocence, repudiating suggestions that he should be held accountable for the fraud. Bryant is calling on Mississippi Today to retract and correct what he asserts are “untrue and slanderous statements” made by the news outlet about him.
To date, Mississippi Today has not retracted any articles linking Bryant to the welfare fraud case.See a typo? Report it here.