HBO’s Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel has addressed a lot of controversial topics over the years, and they’ve often done so well. The latest example of that comes from a segment on their January episode, premiering Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HBO (and available to stream on HBO Max). This one, helmed by correspondent David Scott and producer Max Gershberg, examines the Brett Favre Mississippi welfare scandal, and does so in an interesting way. There aren’t necessarily a ton of new revelations here for those who have been following the story, but there are still powerful new on-the-record comments, and those may also help illustrate this story to those unaware of it. Here’s a preview clip, featuring Scott talking to Mississippi auditor Shad White:
In that clip, we have White saying “This is the largest public fraud case in the history of the state of Mississippi,” Scott asking “Did you have any sense, when you took the case, on what you were wading into?”, and White responding “No. Absolutely not.” From there, he goes to “The folks who were making the spending decisions were acting as if there were no consequences here, as if there were no real rules around this money. They thought of this fund as not only their own fund to do what they wanted with, but they thought of this as a slush fund that no one was watching at all. …It is clearly a volleyball court, built at a time when Mr. Favre’s daughter is there, and you can’t spend money intended for the poor on something like that.”
There are plenty of interesting comments beyond that in the full segment. There are a couple of notable interviews with Springboard to Opportunities CEO Aisha Nyandoro in particular. Here’s some of what she says about the people this money was actually intended for:
“It’s individuals whose lives are on the margins, and that really, really could have benefited and changed their lives had these resources been given to them. …The victims are still the same. The residents of Mississippi, the individuals that are constantly having to prove they’re poor enough to need support, the individuals who don’t know how they’re feeding their kids before they go to school, that don’t know how they’re getting to work. Those are the true victims.”
There are also some further interesting comments from White around discussion of Favre’s texts on rewarding government and non-profit officials here.
“That looks and sounds a lot like a quid pro quo arrangement to benefit somebody personally, and it’s being financed by taxpayer dollars. There’s this very basic principle that you can’t reward somebody for giving you public funds. So what you see in those text messages is either an ignorance of that very basic principle, or the willingness to just ignore that principle.”
Favre declined to be interviewed by Real Sports. One of his representatives released a statement including “He’s been smeared by the media and did nothing wrong.” And, to date, he has not been criminally charged. But he has repaid $1.1 million over the speeches he didn’t do, and he has been sued by the state for a further $7 million.
The Real Sports report here is not necessarily breaking a ton of ground for those who have actively been following the Favre-Mississippi saga. But even for those people, there are some new and notable on-the-record comments here from White. And this may well be a useful introduction to those not yet aware of this story.
Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel premieres Tuesday night on HBO at 10 p.m. ET/PT. It is also available to stream on HBO Max.