EDITORIAL/Phil Bryant's "welfare fraud"

EDITORIAL/Phil Bryant's "welfare fraud"


Having been unfairly targeted by leftwing news media in a massive welfare fraud scandal he actually helped uncover in 2019, former Gov. Phil Bryant declared his innocence Thursday with the release of documents and a video.

Bryant released hundreds of pages of text messages, and correspondence pushing back against the liberal media reports that indicted and convicted him in the scheme exposed by State Auditor Shad White in 2019 with Bryant’s help.

White exposed the massive scheme following a tip from Bryant, who, as a former lawman, sensed something was amiss and needed investigating.

Predictably, the media are now charging, well, that Bryant didn’t release the key texts.

If anything, Bryant’s document dump is Exhibit 1 of why Mississippi taxpayers should not fund welfare programs that, like any good government program, are so large and expansive that no agency can competently oversee them.

Sifting through the hundreds of pages of materials Bryant released, it’s obvious that the now former governor had a distinct pattern with his text communications — a lot of cheerleading, use of emojis, and even the occasional “your” instead of “you’re.”

There is no smoking gun in the pages and pages of documents released. There is certainly nothing implicating Bryant was in a cabal to steal TANF dollars. TANF stands for The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which provides cash benefits for families with children under age 18 who do not have enough income or resources to meet their everyday needs, according to the state Department of Human Services.

“For more than a year the media has pushed a narrative that simply is not true,” Bryant said in an accompanying video where he proclaims he had no direct knowledge of the embezzlement scheme and that the media are weaponizing the story because it’s an election year. And we couldn’t agree more.

Mississippi liberals are cranking up their political machine which includes the media to help elect Democrats.

So many pieces of the welfare fraud puzzle aren’t even in yet. And the puzzle won’t be put together until all the relevant files, communications, and documents are produced through discovery in ongoing and perhaps new litigation.

Mississippi Democrats, led by the liberal Mississippi Today website, the media outfit that purports to have exposed the Bryant story, are threading a predictable narrative that makes conservatives like Bryant look bad and Democrats look good.

Mississippi Today is funded in part by liberal megadonor and billionaire George Soros and other liberals like Jim Barksdale, Dickie Scruggs, and disgraced former NBC News chairman Andrew Lack.

They are all among the leftists and liberal nonprofits that have pumped nearly $8 million into Mississippi Today from 2016-2020 alone.

Mississippi Today has been pushing the Bryant narrative for more than a year.

Yet the Biden-led U.S. Department of Justice and a Democrat Hinds County District Attorney haven’t indicted Bryant in the case.

But reading Mississippi Today headlines, the former governor is guilty until proven innocent. He’s been tried and convicted and their headlines scream their liberal bile:

• “Some want Phil Bryant investigated for welfare scandal. He used to be doing the investigating.”

• “Former Gov. Phil Bryant should be sued over misspent welfare funds, civil defendant argues to court”

• “Gov. Phil Bryant directed $1.1 million welfare payment to Brett Favre, defendant says”

• “Congressman asks feds to investigate former Gov. Phil Bryant’s welfare spending influence”

• “Former Gov. Phil Bryant helped Brett Favre secure funding for USM volleyball stadium, texts reveal”

• “Welfare defendant alleges Gov. Phil Bryant used federal funds to hurt political rival”

• “Attorneys drop hints that feds are eyeing former Gov. Phil Bryant in welfare investigation”

• “Gov. Phil Bryant turned to welfare officials to rescue troubled nephew”

• “Phil Bryant’s star-powered selfies and slick brochures didn’t Save the Children”

• “Governing by text: Phil Bryant’s hidden hand picked welfare winners”

• “‘My Governor is counting on me’: Disgraced welfare director bowed to Phil Bryant’s wishes”

• “Phil Bryant had his sights on a payout as welfare funds flowed to Brett Favre”

• “Mississippi Today investigation exposes new evidence of Phil Bryant’s role in welfare scandal”

These are just some of the headlines about the welfare scandal.

Mississippi Today predictibly leverages Democratic defense attorney Jim Waide to opine and further push their narrative in the stories.

Waide represents one of the defendants in the ongoing civil lawsuit and seems to always be available to comment if it’s an opportunity to throw Bryant under the bus. Interestingly enough, Waide was a source for Mississippi Today on the issue before he even had a client to represent. 

In February, Mary Margaret White, CEO of Mississippi Today, was on a panel for the Knight Foundation about local media, where she declared Bryant guilty while discussing the story.

“2022 has just been a wild ride,” she said. “We’re the newsroom that broke the story about $77 million in welfare funds intended for the poorest people in the poorest state in the nation. Being embezzled by a former governor and his bureaucratic ponies to be used on pet projects like a state-of-the-art volleyball stadium at Brett Favre’s alma mater.”

White says  Bryant embezzled money along with cronies around the 14-minute mark of the video below.

It’s bad enough nearly every article infers Phil Bryant embezzled money; it’s a major leap forward to go on a national stage and say that he did in fact embezzle $77 million.

Mississippi Today is trying to leverage the welfare scandal to give Democratic gubernatorial candidate Brandon Presley an edge over Republican Gov. Tate Reeves. Anything to win!

Presley’s campaign frequently emails Mississippi Today stories as part of their campaign messaging.

Presley is fundraising out of state, talking about the welfare scandal and those mean Republicans like Bryant who cheat the poor black children back home. Donate now!

Mississippi Today has run two polls so far on the governor’s race, and guess what? Presley wins!

“Poll: Majority of Mississippi voters prefer new governor in 2023”

“Poll: Reeves trails Presley in 2023 governor’s race, welfare scandal a top issue”

“Gov. Tate Reeves’ negatives are sky high. His strategy is to make Presley’s higher.”

“Brandon Presley could have one advantage in governor’s race: the issues”

“Governor’s race poll: Brandon Presley slips, Gov. Tate Reeves remains unpopular”

“Poll shows Mississippians strongly favor Presley’s ideas but he still trails in governor’s race”

Kind of feels like brainwashing — or, at the very least, that we need a shower.

There are now two competing narratives following Bryant’s document dump on Thursday, and you can probably guess what they are.

The one Mississippi Today purports is that Bryant deleted all of the really, really bad messages in order to avoid prosecution. Bryant is bad, really, really bad, and he cheated the poor black children. Give us some money to fight him.

The other — and the truth is — that leftists have funneled millions of dollars to a Mississippi media outfit to weaponize the news and push left-wing agendas on Mississippians to win elections.

Our belief is that former Gov. Bryant did nothing wrong. As far as we are concerned, there are equally huge wastes of welfare and other federal dollars that go on all the time and have been going on since the introduction of all these programs by Democrats.

Mississippi Today says it is in possession of leaked messages from the investigation, claiming they were provided by a source they worked for quite some time. Exactly how hard can a Mississippi Today reporter work a source? Stay tuned as this story unfolds.

Our belief is that former Gov. Bryant did nothing wrong, but if there is any evidence, let’s see it.

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