Mary Margaret White (Photo from Mississippi Today bio)
Mary Margaret White calls her recent remark “inappropriate.” The former governor could still file a lawsuit but whether he will is unclear at this time.
Last week, former-Governor Phil Bryant issued a notice of intent to sue Mississippi Today for defamation. The letter notice is required under Mississippi law and affords the accused defamer ten days to correct the record and apologize.
At the center of the case made by Bryant’s attorney, Billy Quinn, in the notice were comments made by Mississippi Today CEO Mary Margaret White while sitting on a conference panel. White told the audience at the conference that her newsroom had broken the story of Bryant embezzling.
Read Magnolia Tribune’s breaking story on Phil Bryant’s threat to sue.
White issued a public apology on Wednesday night, which read in full:
I misspoke at a recent media conference regarding the accusations against former Governor Phil Bryant in the $77 million welfare scandal. He has not been charged with any crime. My remark was inappropriate, and I sincerely apologize.
Mississippi Today has published at least 29 times over the course of its coverage of the welfare scandal, including multiple times in “The Backchannel” investigative series, that Gov. Bryant has not been charged with any crime. My mistake was unintentional and an inaccurate representation of the facts.
This statement will be shared across Mississippi Today’s platforms, including our website, social media, newsletter, mobile app and text service. I have requested that the video of my remark be retracted with this apology.
By issuing the apology, White may have removed some potential liability from Mississippi Today. Under Mississippi law, a correction within ten days can take punitive damages and attorney’s fees off the table if the defamation suit proceeds.
At this stage, it is unclear if, or when, such a lawsuit would be filed. Bryant does not have to file right away but could wait until the statute of limitations (deadline to file a suit) is near.
Both parties would face risks if the suit proceeds. Bryant would become subject to additional discovery and deposition. Mississippi Today, likewise, would have to answer discovery and sit for depositions. All of their internal and external communications on the welfare scandal would likely be fair game.