In This Episode
- Outrage continues in Iran over the death of a woman detained by that country’s “morality police,” and at least nine people have been killed in clashes with security forces.
- Former N.F.L. quarterback Brett Favre has emerged as a key figure in one of the largest welfare fraud cases in Mississippi’s history, after text messages revealed his connections to state officials involved in the scandal.
- And in headlines: a judge temporarily blocked Indiana’s near-total abortion ban, President Biden issued a disaster declaration for Puerto Rico, and Ginni Thomas agreed to meet with the House panel investigating the January 6th riot.
- Deadspin: “The media needs to treat Brett Favre like it did Michael Vick and Colin Kaepernick” – https://tinyurl.com/25ner4tn
- Vote Save America: Fuck Bans Action Plan – https://votesaveamerica.com/roe/
Crooked Coffee is officially here. Our first blend, What A Morning, is available in medium and dark roasts. Wake up with your own bag at crooked.com/coffee
Follow us on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/whataday/
Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Friday, September 23rd. I’m Tre’vell Anderson.
Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi. And this is What A Day where instead of watching Don’t Worry Darling in theaters tonight, we will be busy watching the Chris Pine spit tape on an hour and a half long loop.
Tre’vell Anderson: You know the reviews for that movie are not necessarily the best. And so the spit tape has to be more interesting.
Priyanka Aribindi: There’s mystery, there’s intrigue. It’s high stakes. We’re in it. [music break]
Tre’vell Anderson: On today’s show, Jenny Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, will speak to the January 6th committee. Plus, President Biden pledged to pay for relief costs in Puerto Rico for a month.
Priyanka Aribindi: But first, an update on the protests in Iran, which have been underway since last weekend. Clashes between Iranian security forces and protesters who took to the streets following the death of a 22 year old woman in police custody have left nine people dead so far, though Iranian state TV suggests that the death toll could be as high as 17.
Tre’vell Anderson: Okay. You mentioned this on the show earlier in the week. Can you recap what sparked the protests?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. So earlier we told you about the death of Mahsa Amini. She was a Kurdish woman who was taken into custody by Iran’s morality police last Tuesday for supposedly wearing her hijab, which is the headscarf worn by some Muslim women, too loosely. Iranian police claim that she died of a heart attack. But reports say that she suffered multiple blows to the head before she died. And her family says that officers beat her in the police van right after she was arrested. The demonstrations started last Saturday at her funeral and have since swept across much of the country, becoming one of the biggest spontaneous acts of defiance against Iran’s government in recent memory. Women are in the streets cutting their hair, burning their hijabs, all of which is incredibly risky in a country like Iran. We actually have some audio from the protests. Take a listen.
[clip of Iranians protesting the death of Mahsa Amini] [shouting and chanting]
Priyanka Aribindi: Amini’s death has opened up a real outpouring of anger in Iran over basic freedoms, especially for women, and not just over that. Demonstrators are also calling attention to widespread economic issues and other long standing grievances that they’ve had with their government.
Tre’vell Anderson: Let’s talk a little more about this morality police. What do we need to know about them and how do they operate?
Priyanka Aribindi: These police units are specifically there to enforce the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code and to detain anybody who is, quote unquote, “improperly dressed by their standards”. So under Iranian law, women have to cover their hair with a hijab and wear loose fitting clothing in public to hide their figures. This hasn’t always been the case, though. So before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, it wasn’t uncommon to see women in Tehran with their hair uncovered, even wearing miniskirts out in the street. So very similar to like an American city. But the morality police force was formally established in 2005, and they have been highly criticized for their approach in the time since. Women are frequently detained and only released when a relative can come bail them out and say that they’ll wear their hijab properly in the future. Other reports indicate that these units regularly beat people in their custody and subject them to cruel and unusual punishments.
Tre’vell Anderson: Horrible behavior there. Tell us–
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah.
Tre’vell Anderson: –A little bit more about the reaction to these protests both in Iran and abroad.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, so Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, is actually in New York right now for the U.N. General Assembly. Very awkward time to be mingling with the other world leaders.
Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm.
Priyanka Aribindi: Most of whom are like, what the hell is going on? That is not okay. He told Amini’s family that he ordered an investigation into her death on Sunday. But that’s a very different tune than what is happening on the ground in Iran. So back in Iran, the government has deployed massive amounts of security forces to violently crackdown against these protesters. And to prevent them from spreading further the country’s largest telecom operator has effectively shut down Internet access across the country. There have also been widespread outages of Instagram and WhatsApp, which are widely used by protesters to coordinate and get the word out about what’s going on. So really trying to tamp down on what’s happening. Globally people have been outraged by what’s happening. The U.N. has condemned Iran’s violent response to the protests. On Thursday, the U.S. government imposed sanctions on the morality police and leaders of other Iranian security agencies. But whether or not these demonstrations will become a political tipping point and will change things remains to be seen because Iran really doesn’t have a good track record when it comes to political dissent.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, this is a story that we will be following, I’m sure.
Priyanka Aribindi: Certainly.
Tre’vell Anderson: Now on to another story. This one you’ve probably heard only a little bit about Priyanka. It comes out of Mississippi and is about some financial theft. And somehow it involves Brett Favre, who I’m told those of y’all in sports ball land are super into. But to get us up to speed, though, I’ve got to take you back to 2020. So two years ago, about a month before the pandemic ruined many of our lives. The state auditor in Mississippi accused several officials of embezzling tens of millions of dollars in federal money meant for low income folks. The former director of the state’s welfare agency and four others were indicted and arrested in what was characterized at the time as the largest public corruption case in Mississippi in at least 20 years.
Priyanka Aribindi: Wow.
Tre’vell Anderson: They basically did a reverse Robin Hood there. They stole money meant for poor folks in the poorest state in the country, by the way. And they gave it to the rich, more privileged people. They used some of this money to pay for a luxury drug rehab program for a former pro wrestler.
Priyanka Aribindi: What?
Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, it’s odd. Priyanka. I know it sounds like it’s out of nowhere, um but yeah, it’s been suggested that the total amount is over $90 million dollars, that was kind of funneled from the welfare programs. That is the background, though.
Priyanka Aribindi: Wild. Okay.
Tre’vell Anderson: That’s just the background. Now, yesterday, that former director of Mississippi’s welfare agency, his name is John Davis, pleaded guilty to federal and state charges that included theft, conspiracy, and fraud. The state judge gave Davis a 90 year sentence, but he only has to serve 32 of them. Davis is 54 years old, by the way, and he’s currently on house arrest until his federal sentencing next year, where he faces up to 15 additional years.
Priyanka Aribindi: Okay, I’m straight on this part. They stole from the government. They were giving money that was meant for poor people to wealthier people. But where does Brett Favre factor into this equation?
Tre’vell Anderson: Gotcha. Well, apparently the former football star had a hand in the misuse of some of these funds. Earlier this month, text messages related to the scandal were released, which suggests that he knew that at least $5 million dollars of the state’s welfare funds were funneled off to build a volleyball arena at the University of Southern Mississippi, where his daughter was on the team. Now the University of Southern Mississippi is his alma mater, as well as the alma mater of then Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant. I’ll let you guess his political affiliation. But he also is implicated in these text messages. But beyond that, the texts also appear to show Farve plotting with the head of a nonprofit who received some of these funds meant for low income communities. He texted back in 2017, quote, “If you were to pay me, is there any way the media could find out where it came from and how much?”
Priyanka Aribindi: Jeez.
Tre’vell Anderson: Now this text was about more than a million dollars he ended up receiving for speeches he never actually gave. He also helped channel more than $2 million dollars in government funds to a biotechnology startup that he had invested in. That’s all according to a lawsuit filed against him by Mississippi’s Department of Human Services.
Priyanka Aribindi: Wow. Okay. A lot happening here. I feel like a large takeaway, not the main one is to not put shit in writing. Everybody, [laughter] please stop doing your shit over text. Stop DMing random girls on Instagram. Stop. Just quit it. Don’t do that. But anyways, back to the story. How has Brett Favre responded to all of this coming to light? You know, what’s he reacting like?
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, well, he and his lawyers have repeatedly said that he was not aware that the funds came from a federal welfare program. But these texts are fairly damning.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah.
Tre’vell Anderson: One of them even shows there were plans at one point for the volleyball arena to be named after him. And so you would think he had to have known something if they were going to name the building after you.
Priyanka Aribindi: Right.
Tre’vell Anderson: But I want to note that this story goes far beyond Brett Favre, even though his involvement has kind of, you know, made the story somewhat national news. The fact of the matter is that rather than the federal welfare program known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or TANF, helping the poor as intended, it became a slush fund for already privileged folks. That said, neither Brett Favre nor former Governor Bryant have yet been charged with anything in this case.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, this is corruption on like a level that I feel like you don’t really expect in America. I don’t expect. But if, this is wild, anyways. I know that Brett Favre, I’m not like a huge football fan, but even I know who he is, he’s a really big deal in the football world. So how has the public responded to this?
Tre’vell Anderson: Well, some have said that the story is barely making the headlines it should.
Priyanka Aribindi: Right.
Tre’vell Anderson: Carron Phillips, a reporter with Deadspin, he wrote a piece with the headline, The media needs to Treat Brett Favre Like It Did Michael Vick and Colin Kaepernick. We’ll link to it in the show notes. But he’s basically saying that because Farve is white and the victims of this crime are poor Black folks, not enough people seem to care, which I think, you know, based on history. Right. There might be some truth to.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, this is like terrible what he did. This man should not like be allowed to socialize normally and, like, lead a normal life. Like, this is terrible.
Tre’vell Anderson: It absolutely is. And it’s so much money, right, that was meant to go to these poor folks, largely Black folks. Right. Because the state in question is Mississippi.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah.
Tre’vell Anderson: In Jackson in particular, they’re still having water issues there, by the way.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah.
Tre’vell Anderson: There’s a lot happening in Mississippi. [sigh] And so more to come on this story very soon, I’m sure. But that is the latest for now. [music break] Let’s get to some headlines.
Tre’vell Anderson: An Indiana judge temporarily blocked the state’s near-total abortion ban on Thursday, just one week after it took effect. As a reminder, the law bans all abortions from the moment of conception except in cases of rape, incest or if the pregnant person’s life is at risk. The judge hearing the case ruled in favor of clinic operators who sued the state, arguing that the law violates Indiana’s constitution. The ruling means the procedure is now legal again in Indiana, but only up to 20 weeks.
Priyanka Aribindi: Listen, let’s make this temporary block permanent. This is good news for the people of Indiana.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yes.
Priyanka Aribindi: President Biden issued a disaster declaration in Puerto Rico on Wednesday. This comes after Hurricane Fiona battered the island earlier this week and knocked out its already fragile power grid. Biden’s declaration unlocked more federal funding for programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the storm. And it will pay 100% of the relief and cleanup costs for a month. Meanwhile, Fiona continues to move north as a Category Four storm and is expected to hit Bermuda this weekend.
Tre’vell Anderson: Somebody going to have to pay for it after the first month you know.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, like one month. Like okay sure.
Tre’vell Anderson: What’s going on?
Priyanka Aribindi: But I think this is going to have further reaching effects than that. Wishful thinking.
Tre’vell Anderson: And we’ve already talked about the first impact from Hurricane Maria a number of years ago that Puerto Rico hasn’t yet fully rebounded from. But, you know, that’s a conversation for another time. After months of negotiations, House Democrats passed four policing bills yesterday that would give millions of dollars in federal funding to local law enforcement. Moderates in the party were eager to pass the measures ahead of the midterms to appeal to centrist voters. But progressives didn’t love the idea of giving local police departments more money, and they argued that there weren’t enough accountability measures for law enforcement agencies in the legislation in the first place. The bills have virtually no chance of passing in the Senate, but their approval in the House will likely help incumbent moderates facing competitive races for reelection this year.
Priyanka Aribindi: Turns out some people did manage to be productive during lockdown. Apparently, fraudsters used their time inside to steal over $45 billion dollars from unemployment programs. That is according to a report yesterday from the Labor Department’s inspector general, who said that while millions of Americans used their unemployment checks to you know feed their families, scammers were busy filing billions of dollars in false claims to collect the funds for themselves. Some even went as far as using over 200,000 Social Security numbers that belonged to dead people on their applications. And others used the identities of federal prisoners who weren’t even eligible for aid. Even worse, officials from the inspector general’s office say that they aren’t even done with their investigation yet and that they’ll probably find billions more dollars in theft over the next few months.
Tre’vell Anderson: You know, if you’re one of those people who got one of those PPP loans that you weren’t supposed to get, you’re probably are shaking in your boots right now.
Priyanka Aribindi: Listen.
Tre’vell Anderson: I’m just saying.
Priyanka Aribindi: That shits going to catch up with you. It always does.
Tre’vell Anderson: It always does.
Priyanka Aribindi: It always does.
Tre’vell Anderson: Trump’s legal team is learning a valuable lesson. When you mess with the Dearie, you get the antlers.
Priyanka Aribindi: Jeez.
Tre’vell Anderson: Their special master gambit seems to be backfiring already. With the judge appointed to the job, Raymond Dearie demanding yesterday that lawyers back up the former president’s claim that FBI agents planted evidence when they searched Mar-a-Lago. Trump’s team has one week to put into writing what they believe the FBI planted, something they might be hesitant to do as lawyers if they don’t actually believe the FBI planted anything. We know the folks over there in the Trump camp like to lie. According to, you know, Letitia James’s complaint. Okay. Meanwhile, Trump continues to refine his explanation of how presidents declassify things, this time pushing it into the metaphysical realm. Here he is on Fox News yesterday:
[clip of Donald Trump] If you’re the president of the United States, you can declassify just by saying it’s declassified, even by thinking about it, because you’re sending it–
Tre’vell Anderson: Oh no.
[clip of Donald Trump] [–to Mar-a-Lago or to wherever you’re sending it.]
Tre’vell Anderson: Oh no.
Priyanka Aribindi: What?
Tre’vell Anderson: That’s not.
Priyanka Aribindi: What was that word salad. I’m sorry. Like was I supposed to understand what any of that meant?
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. No, no, no, no, no. That’s not how that works.
Priyanka Aribindi: Love his interest in manifestation though. Feels like he’s got a lot in common with the L.A. girlies. That’s lovely for him.
Tre’vell Anderson: We love that for him. Although it might get him in some trouble.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. And there is an update on the only wife in the world who has zero ability whatsoever to influence her husband, Jenny Thomas, famously an election denier and a conservative activist who also happens to be married to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Per her lawyer. Thomas has agreed to be interviewed by the January 6th House Committee sometime in the coming weeks. Committee members first requested an interview with her back in June after texts and emails emerged that showed her active involvement in different attempts to challenge Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.
Tre’vell Anderson: This is what I’m interested in seeing, okay. Because we’ve seen the text messages. We’ve heard her name swirling in these headlines for the past few months, especially while all of this investigation has been happening. I’m interested to see what she has to say for herself.
Priyanka Aribindi: I’m ready. I’m here for, like, the messy spouse stuff these days. [laughter] I’m happy to sit here with a bowl of popcorn and just watch it happen.
Tre’vell Anderson: And those are the headlines. We’ll be back after some ads to discuss a food that may never have existed. Known as NyQuil chicken.
Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Friday WAD squad. And for today’s temp check, we’re discussing a story at the intersection of Big Pharma and Big Poultry. I’m talking, of course, about so-called NyQuil chicken. Now, you may have heard this, but earlier this week, the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning against what it described as the, quote, “social media trend of cooking chicken in NyQuil”. Okay. The implication was that young people were being encouraged to do this on TikTok, a place that’s full of great recipes, but also maybe the type of people who would use cold medicine as a marinade. Predictably, NyQuil chicken captured the media’s attention, leading hundreds of articles to be written and aggregated ad infinitum. But upon further investigation, it seems that there’s not a single report of anyone actually doing this. And instead of shifting the spotlight off NyQuil Chicken, the FDA’s warning caused searches of NyQuil chicken on TikTok to skyrocket by over 100,000% over the past few days. All of this has us feeling too anxious to sleep unless we eat some NyQuil chicken first. So Priyanka, what are your thoughts?
Priyanka Aribindi: Well, first, as a TikTok user, I can say that I have not seen a single thing like this. My feed has been all Adam Levine videos. [laughter] Not a single NyQuil chicken in sight. I don’t know how this happened. Someone picks up something that is just absolutely not a thing. Blows it up into like this like crazy scare. All the kids are eating tide pods. Like no one’s fucking eating tide pods. Like we’re all fine. We’re okay. Contrary to popular belief, not as dumb as you may think. This is all one big like facepalm. Of course this happened. To me. But like Tre’vell. What do you think about this nonsense?
Tre’vell Anderson: So I’m not going to lie. When I first heard it, I believed it. And you want to know why I believed it? Because–
Priyanka Aribindi: Oh no, why’d you believe it?
Tre’vell Anderson: If you go on social media, all right. Every other day, we see another white person discovering salt and pepper.
Priyanka Aribindi: Sure, sure.
Tre’vell Anderson: And seasoning their meat.
Priyanka Aribindi: Sure.
Tre’vell Anderson: And all of that. And so I just said to myself, this might be some white folks, you know, doing some foolishness on TikTok.
Priyanka Aribindi: Just trying flavor.
Tre’vell Anderson: Trying flavor. Okay. Now, I’m glad to hear that no one is actually doing this. Okay. Um. But I did think it was real. And I don’t know whose fault that is.
Priyanka Aribindi: I don’t know either. But I would love to know. [laughter]
Tre’vell Anderson: And just like that, we’ve checked our temps. They’re a little, a little crunchy. [laughing]
Priyanka Aribindi: A little like, ugh, I’m not feeling so great. [music break]
Tre’vell Anderson: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Eat a normal chicken. Okay. And tell your friends to listen.
Priyanka Aribindi: And if you’re into reading and not just eye popping emails from Jenny Thomas like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
Tre’vell Anderson: I’m Tre’vell Anderson.
[spoken together] And watch out for those antlers Trump.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yes, feels like it’s going the absolute opposite of the way he wanted it to.
Tre’vell Anderson: And we love that. We want it to be the opposite of what he intended. Absolutely.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. It’s finally coming back around for everyone, for the scammers, for Donald Trump, who is the world’s biggest scammer. [music break]
Tre’vell Anderson: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein and our executive producer is Lita Martinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.