Former SEAL and Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura sues widow of ‘American Sniper’ Chris Kyle over reputed bar fight in Coronado.
Former Minnesota Governor and professional wrestler, Jesse Ventura claims the story of a bar fight Chris Kyle related in his book American Sniper sullied his reputation and made it hard for him to go to Navy gatherings anymore. He argues in his defamation lawsuit against Kyle’s widow, in fact, the incident never happened.
Attorneys representing Kyle’s widow Taya Kyle, the daughter of Lake Oswego, Oregon Mayor Kent Studebaker, “the former professional wrestler and celebrity needed no help from Kyle in sullying his own name.”
Eyewitnesses have testified Kyle, who in his book referred to Ventura not by name but by the label ‘scruff face’, punched the former governor.
On October 12, 2006, Kyle and other SEALs were at Mc P’s in Coronado to celebrate the life of fellow SEAL Michael Mansoor, a friend of Kyle’s, who just days before dove on a grenade in Ramadi to save the life of his comrades. Ventura was at McP’s attending a SEALs reunion.
That’s where things get fuzzy.
Kyle claims in his book “he punched and knocked down Ventura after he continued to make disparaging remarks about President George W. Bush and the Iraq war and said the SEALs “deserved to lose a few.””
“[My career] came to a screeching halt is the best way I can put it.” The Underwater Demolition Team-SEAL Association has been circulating a petition to remove Ventura for dishonorable conduct. Ventura has said it was because of the bar story.”
The organization claims members circulated the petition because of Ventura’s lawsuit.
His douchebaggery speaks for itself. On one hand, if he did say the SEALs “deserved to lose a few” it would make those SEAL reunions a bit testy. On the other, going after the widow of the “American Sniper” the most lethal sniper in the military who was named by his enemies the “Devil of Ramadi” makes him look like a classless sissy.
Ventura went to court to clamp down on the story which he says cost him big money,
“Tax returns showed Ventura made more than $13 million in the decade before “American Sniper’s” release. Much of that came from his contract for an MSNBC talk show in 2003-05, but Ventura took in $676,000 in 2011, the year before the book came out.
After Kyle’s autobiography was released, Ventura’s earnings dipped to $190,000 in 2012. Ventura said job offers, usually plentiful, “came to a screeching halt.” The third season of his TruTV series “Conspiracy Theory” was put on hold because of the story, he said, and the series eventually was canceled.
While Kyle didn’t mention Ventura by name in the book, he did connect Ventura to the story in later interviews.
But Taya Kyle’s attorneys say it wasn’t Kyle who sullied Ventura’s reputation, it was Ventura himself.
Chuck Webber, an attorney for the Kyle estate, cross-examined Ventura for much of the morning. Webber raised many of Ventura’s own colorful statements in an effort to illustrate that the former professional wrestler and celebrity needed no help from Kyle in sullying his own name.
Those ranged from a news conference outside a courthouse in which Ventura declared he was seeking Mexican citizenship to escape the “Fascist States of America” to a book passage that described “an Army run by Christianist extremists” to another passage saying women had to expect some level of harassment on the street.
Ventura said controversy and offensiveness were in the eye of the beholder. It wasn’t up to him, he said, to say how other people reacted to him.
“You’re not aware of what your reputation is?” Webber asked, pressing Ventura to admit that he had a penchant for controversy.
“Is anyone aware of what their reputation is?” Ventura responded.
Webber named a number of witnesses who he said would testify that they saw or heard parts of Kyle’s story happen. Were they all wrong? he asked.
They were, Ventura said.
Did Ventura sue to get back at Kyle for an embarrassing but true story? Webber asked.
Ventura said he did not.
Proving libel and defamation are very difficult to prove–especially since Kyle isn’t around to tell his side of the story. From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
Winning defamation and libel cases in the United States is hard, because of our First Amendment rights. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune interviewed a few constitutional experts about the case. One academic called it “one of the most important First Amendment cases in recent Minnesota history.” And how could he win? “He’s got to prove not only that the publication was false and harmed his reputation, but he has also got to prove that it was published with actual malice.”
Another professor confirmed this. “Truth or falsity by itself is not the only issue. Ventura must prove Kyle knew he was writing a lie, or acted recklessly in writing his account.”
University of Minnesota professor Lawrence Jacobs told the Star-Tribune that Ventura always seems to try things “almost certain to fail or just plain without a reasonable chance of success. But I have also learned the lesson not to count Jesse out,” Jacobs said. “He is a magician, and whether it is politics, business or his latest TV career he has consistently surprised us.”
Today, attorneys and the judge are going over jury instructions. Closing arguments are set for tomorrow in a St. Paul, Minnesota courtroom.
A ten person jury is hearing the case.