State Auditor Shad White (Photo from MS OSA Facebook)
Attorney General Lynn Fitch announced late Friday she was withdrawing as counsel for State Auditor Shad White in two defamation lawsuits brought against White because of an undescribed conflict of interest. White fired back quickly.
The dust on the 2023 campaign for governor has hardly settled. But on a rainy Friday afternoon in Jackson, the first shot in a newly budding political war may have been fired.
Late today, Attorney General Lynn Fitch’s office put out a statement indicating she was withdrawing her office’s defense of State Auditor Shad White in two defamation lawsuits filed against White.
The first lawsuit, brought by University of Mississippi James Thomas, related to a “Scholar Strike” Thomas participated in for two days in September of 2020. White contended this protest violated Mississippi law, which prevents public educators from going on strike. He demanded Thomas repay $1,912 in salary and interest. Thomas sued.
(Thomas’s claim to fame before his Scholar Strike was to encourage people to disrupt Republican politicians meals. He wrote, “Put your whole damn fingers in their salads. Take their apps and distribute them to the other diners. Bring boxes and take their food home with you on the way out.”)
The second lawsuit, brought by Brett Favre, relates to White’s statements about the NFL Hall of Famers involvement in the ongoing TANF welfare saga.
In her statement today, Fitch expressed “deep regret” for having to withdraw her office’s defense of White, but indicated that she had “learned of new information which has created a conflict pursuant to the Mississippi Rules of Professional Conduct.” Read Full Statement here.
It did not take long for the Auditor to release a statement of his own. In his statement, White said the Attorney General’s office had represented to him the nature of the alleged conflict of interest, pointing to content in White’s unreleased book, Mississippi Swindle, which “call[s] into question the integrity of the Attorney General and her office.” Read Full Statement here.
Mississippi Swindle, subtitled Brett Favre and the Welfare Scandal that Shocked America, is due out in August of 2024. The publisher, Penguin Random House, is marketing the book with the tagline, “How America’s youngest state auditor uncovered the largest public corruption scandal in the history of the nation’s poorest state.”
The book’s website has been widely circulated among politicos in recent weeks. Presumably, Attorney General Fitch would have access to the book’s content prior to its public release.
Both Fitch and White are frequently mentioned in the same sentence as potential candidates for governor in 2027. Other names being bandied in political circles include businessman and philanthropist Thomas Duff, former Speaker of the House Philip Gunn, Congressman Trent Kelly, and former Congressman Gregg Harper.
While the Attorney General’s decision and White’s response could be completely apolitical, these types of exchanges have a way of resulting in battle lines, particularly when big prizes are at stake.
Governor Tate Reeves’ term will last through January of 2028.
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