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Former Governor Phil Bryant plans to sue Mississippi Today over welfare scandal reporting

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Former Mississippi governor Phil Bryant has released a letter stating his intentions to file a defamation lawsuit against Mississippi Today for comments made relating to the state’s ongoing welfare scandal.

The letter addressed to Mississippi Today CEO Mary Margaret White, editor-in-chief Adam Ganucheau, and investigative reporter Anna Wolfe claims that statements made during an episode of the publication’s “The Other Side” podcast inaccurately represent Bryant’s connection to the case.

According to Bryant’s attorney, William Quin II, the podcast episode included comments from Ganucheau and Wolfe that “falsely claim that Mississippi Today personnel had never stated that former Governor Bryant committed a crime.”

The letter continues, citing a statement made by White during a panel discussion hosted by the Knight Foundation in February 2023.

“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 cronies to be used on pet projects like a state-of-the-art volleyball stadium at Brett Favre’s alma mater,” White said.

Bryant’s representation then argues that White’s statement can be considered defamation as there have not been any charges issued or evidence found that the former governor ever converted or embezzled the welfare funds.

Direct quotes made by both Ganucheau and Wolfe during the episode also detailed in the letter, including one where Ganucheau says that to date, the publication “has not had to issue any retraction or correction on anything Backchannel-related.”

The letter states that Ganucheau’s statement is false as he disclosed for the first time in late September 2022 that his mother, Stephanie Ganucheau, was the special assistant attorney general who “had signed off on the language of a lease agreement to construct a University of Southern Mississippi volleyball stadium — a project now a focus of the state’s ongoing welfare scandal.”

As a result, Bryant’s attorney is claiming that the comments made during the podcast episode were made with “actual malice”  and that White’s statement has caused damage against the former governor.

In return, Bryant is requesting that Mississippi Today publish full-and-fair corrections of White’s statement and subsequent comments made by Ganucheau and Wolfe, as well as have all three individuals and the publication publicly apologize for their comments.

The letter also states that Mississippi Today, White, Ganucheau, and Wolfe have 10 days after the notice is served to issue public retractions before legal action is taken.

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