The conservative blog Y’all Politics published on Sept. 21, 2022, that my mother, in her role as special assistant attorney general, 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. I learned about this on the evening of Sept. 20, 2022, when the blog’s editor began calling around for comment.
Without hesitation, I consulted with Mississippi Today colleagues and with veteran journalism leaders outside our newsroom about what had been, to that point, unknown to everyone on our staff. We immediately implemented a permanent policy that would allow any reporting that may present a conflict to go forward without my direction. And after continued internal discussions, we decided to add an editor’s note to each future story mentioning the USM volleyball project, including retroactively adding the note to one earlier story that published after we learned the information.
None of this changes nor challenges a thing about Mississippi Today’s relentless reporting about the misuse of federal welfare funding intended to help the state’s most vulnerable people. In our three-plus years of coverage of the state’s welfare scandal — including breaking the very first story about the USM volleyball stadium being funded with welfare dollars — we have never stopped even an inch short of reporting the whole truth for any reason, whether personal or political.
Multiple journalists on staff, independent of my involvement, reviewed the information published by Y’all Politics and determined we have sufficiently and consistently reported that the Attorney General’s Office signed off on the volleyball contract. You can read some of that reporting here, here, here and here. And for years, we have made deliberate editorial decisions to not name dozens of state employees at multiple agencies who reviewed welfare-related documents or sat in relevant meetings but ultimately had no authority over how funds were spent.
That political actors are willing to leverage the bureaucratic role my own mother played in state government to try to discredit Mississippi Today’s reporting is notable. But it should not distract readers from the real story: Powerful Mississippians appear to have used the state government system to steer millions away from our neediest residents into their own pockets and the pockets of their wealthy friends.
We will follow and report the story wherever it leads us, just as we always have.