Why Jesse Ventura’s Lawsuit Speaks Louder Than the Verdict

Jesse VenturaThis week, a jury awarded former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura $1.8 million in his defamation lawsuit against the estate of Chris Kyle. Kyle was a United States Navy SEAL and author of the book American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History.

The basis for the lawsuit was Ventura’s insistence that a 2006 encounter between Ventura and Kyle, that Kyle described in his book, never actually happened. Kyle claimed that he punched Ventura (who wasn’t identified by name in book, but was in later interviews with Kyle) to the floor of a bar after growing agitated by several derogatory comments he said Ventura loudly made about the Iraq War, the U.S. government, and the U.S. military. Kyle said that he was particularly sensitive to the remarks because the family of deceased Medal of Honor winner, Michael Mansoor, was within earshot of Ventura inside the bar. Kyle was there for Mansoor’s wake.

Ventura, who served long ago on a Navy underwater demolition team, acknowledged in court that he was indeed inside the bar that night. He denied, however, that an altercation took place and that he made such comments. He took particular exception to the notion that he would ever say that the U.S. military “deserved to lose a few” – the remark that Kyle claimed provoked the punch.

The lawsuit was initially filed against Chris Kyle himself, but after the highly decorated Navy SEAL was tragically murdered in February of 2013, Ventura surprised and angered many by quickly switching the suit’s defendant to Taya Kyle (Chris Kyle’s grieving widow); she was the executor of her husband’s estate.

I made the point in a column I wrote in July of 2013 that I found the notion of Jesse Ventura suing anyone for defamation of character to be pretty silly.  I wasn’t even sure it was possible to defame Jesse Ventura – at least more than the man has already defamed himself over the years.

After all, this is the same Jesse Ventura who has routinely pushed the narrative that 9/11 was an inside job that was carried out by the U.S. government. It’s the same Jesse Ventura who claimed that the World Trade Center collapsed not as the result of being struck by two hijacked passenger jets, but by remote-controlled explosives that were planted inside the buildings by the government. It’s the same Jesse Ventura who insists that the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001 not to dismantle Al Qaeda, but to take over the country’s heroin industry. It’s the same Jesse Ventura who tried to sue the TSA after he received a standard security pat-down at an airport. It’s the same Jesse Ventura who, after initially hearing about Chris Kyle’s allegations, suggested that it may have been a body double of him who actually made the derogatory remarks. And again, it’s the same Jesse Ventura who chose to sue the widow of an American hero in her time of mourning for something her dead husband said.

While I concede that my observational definition of defamation certainly differs from the legal one, Ventura sure doesn’t seem like a guy who has ever been particularly concerned with his reputation. In fact, I’d say that if he really did remark that the U.S. military “deserved to lose a few,” it probably wouldn’t even rank as the most offensive thing he’s said in public. I’ve heard him say comparable things to that a number of times while using his soapbox to shame the U.S. government over conspiracy theory committals of an endless number of atrocities.

Prior to the court verdict, Chris Kyle’s defense attorneys stated that it would take 11 witnesses from the bar and a decorated Navy SEAL lying under oath for jurors to side with Jesse Ventura. To the surprise of many, that’s exactly what they did.

It may not be fair for someone not sitting in a courtroom during a trial to second-guess the conclusion reached by the jury, but it sure seems to me like an injustice was committed. Even if the jury disregarded the testimony of the witnesses for the defense who claimed they saw the altercation, Ventura had to show that there was “actual malice” from Chris Kyle to defame his reputation. I don’t know how anyone who has read the relevant passage in Kyle’s book, or had listened to Kyle speak of the incident in interviews, could have possibly reached that conclusion. It was presented as an amusing anecdote; not as an indictment of Ventura’s character.

Regardless, the jury has spoken, and unless an appeal changes things, Ventura will receive a big pay-day. Oddly enough, Ventura has claimed all along that the lawsuit was never about money, even though his lawyer was quoted as saying they were hoping for $15 million in damages. Ventura says he pursued the lawsuit only because he wanted to earn back his reputation with the community that mattered most to him – the brotherhood of current and former SEALs.

The way I see it, one would have to apply for citizenship to Bizzaro World to accept that explanation.

From a Dead Sleep by John A. DalyAre we to believe that suing a murdered SEAL’s widow in the wake of her husband’s death is how one ingratiates himself to that group of people? If Ventura really wanted to earn his supposedly damaged reputation back, there was a far better path he could have taken. He could have simply dropped the lawsuit after Chris Kyle’s death, and made a public statement that while he sticks to his account of what happened, he’s not going to punish the remaining family of a decorated war hero who served his country exceptionally and honorably.

That would have been the classy thing to do. It would have been the right thing to do. It would have actually helped his reputation. The problem is that it would have come with no tangible monetary value.

Now, Ventura’s left with an even worse stigma hanging over him than he had before. Instead of being defined by a verdict he believed would prove him right, he’s defined by a level of tastelessness that shows him to be immeasurably wrong.

I hope it was all worth it, Jesse.

Author Bio:

John Daly couldn't have cared less about world events and politics until the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks changed his perspective. Since then, he's been deeply engaged in the news of the day with a particular interest in how that news is presented. Realizing the importance of the media in a free, democratic society, John has long felt compelled to identify media injustices when he sees them. With a B.S. in Business Administration, and a 16 year background in software and web development, John has found that his real passion is for writing. His first novel, entitled "From a Dead Sleep", is now on sale! He lives in Northern Colorado with his wife and two children. Like John on Facebook. Follow John on Twitter.
Author website: http://www.johndalybooks.com/
  • The Big Kahuna

    Just remember who runs the media. Do you think Democrats or Republicans want him to run for president? Is his views really far fetched. Make sure you do your research our future is at state. Sign his petition online so at least he can get into the debates and we will decide then. And no he is not going to spend a Billion on his campaign. Grass roots effort is the way you should get elected not money.

  • buckrodgers

    Jessie Venture is a pro wrestler that couldn’t handle the fact that Hulk Hogan was more popular and talented,, Jessie couldn’t be WWE wrestling champ.so he ran of to Minnesota and was elected Governor in a state that likes to elect fools to represent them the judgement will be overturned by an appeals court.

  • brickman

    This is somewhat similar to the Shirley Sherrod lawsuit against Breitbart. He allegedly defamed Sherrod then died after she sued him. Sherrod is now suing Breitbart’s widow. I have no problem with that since she inherited Breitbart’s estate which financially benefitted from defaming Sherrod. Ventura has the same circumstance here.Kyle profited from the story in the book or he wouldn’t have mentioned it.

    As far as Ventura’s Truthierism, I will point out that Fox News contributor Judge Andrew Napolitano believes that US government intelligence assets ( with the approval of Dubya) brought down building 7 with explosives. In other words, the government prewired the building knowing the attack was coming and did nothing to stop it but instead aided the attack.I await your next column on Truthers other than Ventura.

  • potemkin_village_usa

    Kyle’s widow will be paying Ventura! I consider Ventura to be somewhat the narcissist! What a whining and selfish cry baby!!

  • ScranunSlim

    Awww, Bernie — “Ventura who insists that the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001 not to dismantle Al Qaeda, but to take over the country’s heroine(sic) industry.”

    HEROIN!

    The Heroin-e Industry is run by Debbie Blabbermouth Schultz

    • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

      Don’t blame Bernie. That’s my fault. I wrote the column. Good catch!

      • ScranunSlim

        John — I kin ketch evreeun’s missteaks butt mie owen

        • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

          lol.

      • Jeff Webb

        See, I thought it was intentional. It would be just like Ventura to claim the govt tried to forcibly assume control of character rights of Wonder Woman and Elektra. (He might’ve been onto something if he’d made that claim a few years before 2001.)

        • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

          Crazy like a fox! ;)

  • Tim Ned

    Each of us have two lives. The one we want; and the one we actually have to live in. Ventura works his world around him to form the Life he wants. This lawsuit serves no other purpose than building his self image within his bubble. Now he can go on talk shows and state he won. It’s interesting to look at a self serving person like this and see them for what they are. It’s not the image they see in themselves.

    • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

      Agreed. A stunning lack of self-awareness.

  • Josh

    Ventura supporters actually exist? I had heard about them, kinda in passing like Bigfoot sightings, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t find two in the comments section.

    It doesn’t really matter if Kyle lied and defamed. It’s no longer about him. WTF does a widow have to do with this nonsense?

    I’m glad that we’ve progressed socially in many respects. Truly. But sometimes I’d just like to challenge people to a good, old-fashioned duel in the streets and blow their kneecaps out for craps and giggles, and to make myself feel better, of course. Insane. Yeah, Ventura’s character is so friggin’ important that he gets to drag a widow through immense grief. I wouldn’t wish that stuff on the people rooting for Venture; I really wouldn’t. I wouldn’t want their spouses to suffer because of their stupidity. That outright cruelty. But I would still really like to kneecap somebody, on the vindictive tip. Please…

    • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

      Believe it or not, there are a lot of Ventura fans on the Internet. Wide-eyed conspiracy theorists unite together in such times, I guess. Here’s to hoping you find a deserving kneecap to take out. ;)

      • Josh

        Oh yeah. Those conspiracy loons. I try not to actually count them as people, so I do overlook them occasionally.

        And here’s hoping that when I do decide to kneecap someone, I don’t have a sixer in me. I cant spale or think good after four. But, surprisingly, I still want to kneecap them just as badly while stone sober.

    • brickman

      I’m not a Ventura fan but he had a right to sue Kyle’s estate which profited from selling a book defaming him.

      • Josh

        Right schmight. I have a right to go stand outside of a military funeral with signs that viciously insult the fallen while also insulting the LGBT community. I can join the Phelps’ right now as a right, and we can take our rights on the road.

        Having the right doesn’t make it right.

        Just like the stalkerazzi taking photos of babies and hounding entire families. “Freedom of the press” is what they fall back on. It’s their right!

        Not calling for a law; screw that nonsense. But someone having a “right” to do something doesn’t make it right to do. Some people fall back on these rights as their justification for following through with something ridiculous.

        If folks like Ventura and Sherrod don’t like being defamed, choose a private life. And especially concerning the likes of those two, they got some serious balls attempting to sue someone after the whacky stuff they’ve put out there.

        It’s about their narcissism, their need for revenge. “How dare they defame ME!” People have been defaming me since I was in friggin’ kindergarten. We’ve all been defamed: Ridiculous rumors and lies and taunts and suchlike. Most of us have undoubtedly done such to others.

        Dragging grieving families through court because someone’s feelings are hurt? Oh, poor wittle babies and your important feel-feels.

        Man, that crawls right up under my skin.

        But, yeah — it’s their right to do it! (But we no longer have the right to duel in the streets, dangit!)

        • brickman

          Shirley Sherrod did lead a private life. No one had heard of her until Breitbart decided to smear her. If people don’t want to be sued for defamation, don’t defame anyone.

          • Josh

            “If people don’t want to be sued for defamation, don’t defame anyone.”

            So their widows defamed? Now I’m just confused.

          • brickman

            You’re right, you are confused. The wives inherited the estates that profited from the defamation. This is a civil action not criminal. It’s about money. If a husband engaged in stock fraud, died and left his ill-gotten gain to his wife. Would you object to suing the widow?

          • Josh

            Left a reply to this yesterday. Went up for moderation, so it might clear, might not. I’ll rewrite it tomorrow if it hasn’t cleared. I guess the W word and crap with a 1 for i constitutes inflammatory language. ‘Bout as bad as defamatory language. Damn hug-boxes.

            I can haz emotionz for running mine world!? o/

          • brickman

            It might be best for you to respect the site and follow its rules.Just like defamers should keep their mouths shut if they don’t want to whine like babies when they are held accountable.

          • Josh

            Yeah. I tried to say Ventura and Sherrod must be greedy h0s if it’s about the money. And it’s a bunch of capital-S nonsense.

            And to your question about stock fraud and if I’d object to suing his wife: YES!

            Unless the wife is guilty, what does she have to do with it? We’re talking apples and oranges here anyway, but why would anyone go after the wife if she’s innocent?

            Investigate to find out? Definitely. Freeze the assets (since we’re speaking criminal here? Yeppers. Suing the widow? For what?

            I live in VA. If you’re ever around my neck of the woods, I’ll volunteer to a quick experiment. I’ll let you punch me as hard as you can in the face. Free shot. Though instead of hitting you back, I’ll go blast the bejesus out of your wife with a Tyson-in-his-hey uppercut.

            I could say, “Well, that’s not the same, because retaliating with violence like that isn’t legal; it isn’t a ‘right.'” But when it comes to morality, I think they’re fairly similar. In fact, the pain from the punch will likely inflict far less of a wound on a completely innocent person than putting them through a drawn-out, media-heavy court process.

            ….

            But this is why you’re confusing me: “Just like defamers should keep their mouths shut if they don’t want to whine like babies when they are held accountable.”

            I don’t necessarily disagree with that. Breitbart and Kyle should stop whining. If they defamed, and people are so self-important and whiny that they have to seek a payout due to being defamed, then go get what’s coming (or: go give what they wanna take). Such is life.

            Wait a min– what’s that…. Oh, you mean they’re not whining? They’re– they’re dead?

            You been watching Ghost Hunters again?

            “They” are not behind held accountable. “They” are dead. Gone. Deceased. Pushin’ up daisies. Bribing the gatekeeper. Taking a dirt nap.

            “They” have been replaced by stand-ins for the vengeance of narcissists who value themselves so highly that, because it’s their “right” by law, they are seeking to — what? Repair their reputations by dragging grieving families through court and holding the wives of alleged defamers accountable for their husbands’ actions?

            And about the money? So, you supposedly tell a lie about me in public, and I’m entitled to monetary damages because, you know, it’s my right to seek such, thus making it perfectly acceptable and not a rep-damaging punk move at all to throw the wife into the mix to collect the money to which I’m entitled.

            If you want to state that it’s their right to do it, I never said it wasn’t. We have hordes of idiotic laws in this “free” nation of ours.

            If you want to argue that it’s actually the right thing to do, you’re not doing a very good job at it.

            I never took you for a hug-box sissy before, so I won’t start now. Seems like it’s just personal against these people, so you don’t rightly care what their loved ones go through in the pursuit of a payout.

            Good a stance as any. You have the right to be vindictive. And by your logic, if one has the right, one better exercise it.

          • brickman

            Not too long winded are you?

            People suing for damages are not hos it’s the way damages are resolved.To use your example of wives let me run down your wife with an automobile , are you a whore if you sue me? Of course not.

            I have served on juries and for the most part I trust the judgement of the American People. You do not.

          • Josh

            Uh oh. Pete forbid I attempt to articulate a point I’m trying to make rather than just throwing out a sentence or two with no explanatory power calling someone a whiner or something, or drawing some blatantly false equivalency and Mutombo-wagging like I just served somebody.

            ……

            So, now “damages” are the same for defamation (having people say allegedly untrue or mean things) and for murder or wrongful death? Dafuq did I just read…

            And I don’t “trust the judgment of the American people” because I don’t think it is right for Sherrod or Kyle to drag grieving families through court to earn a payday? I have no faith in my countrymen because I think the right thing to do would be to drop the suit and to stop seeking a payday after the guilty party dies.

            Gotcha.

            I can see why you’re not explaining your position beyond a short sentence.

            (And I cleared moderation below. Woot! Guess the American people (or maybe person) judged me as worthy. Faith restored!)

          • Josh

            Sherrod or Ventura* of course

            You got me believing in ghosts apparently. It’s contagious.

  • Mike

    I’m no fan of Jesse due to his voracious appetite for money and media attention and I looked at this case as another excuse for him to get back to the media spotlight after several years away from it. However, his lawyers did a good job picking apart the testimonies of the 11 witnesses at the bar the night of the supposed altercation by referring to the alcohol consumption of the group and that many of them were drunk and could not recall where the punch took place or what time. Also, Jesse never had the black eye that Chris allegedly gave him and questioned how he could knock down Jesse, who was 6’5″ tall and 225 lbs. at the time. I would never accuse Chris of lying, but he certainly embellished the truth. I can certainly understand Jesse’s frustration that a major best-selling book accused him of saying that the Seals deserved “to lose a few”. For that statement, I can see why he pursued the lawsuit, even after Chris’ murder. He probably will never go to another SEAL reunion, but in his mind, his name is “cleared”.

    • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

      Hi Mike. I respect your opinion.

      I’ve read about the inconsistencies in the eye-witness accounts as well, and I don’t doubt that some of the witnesses were likely inebriated. However, all of them did testify to either seeing an altercation, or at least the aftermath of one with Ventura climbing up from the floor. Jesse’s a big guy, but it doesn’t take much to knock someone off a bar-stool when they’re not prepared for it.

      According to Kyle, it was quick altercation that basically consisted of one punch and him (Kyle) running out of the bar immediately afterwards. To me, that makes sense in the context of what the witnesses testified to – being that most weren’t quite sure what had just happened at the time, and had to go back 8 years in their minds to remember the specifics.

      Kyle said in his book that the black eye was a “rumor” he had heard.

      I wasn’t there, though, and I admit a bias exists in that from what I’ve read of both men, Chris Kyle comes across as far more respectable.

      Let me ask you this though: Even if Kyle really did fabricate or at least exaggerate what happened, and the defense’s witnesses really didn’t see what they said they saw, wouldn’t you agree that Kyle’s telling of the story wasn’t done out of malice intent to besmirch Ventura? If that were his intent, I believe he would have put Ventura’s name in his book, instead of letting radio hosts later reluctantly drag it out of him.

      I also thought the prosecution’s assertion that the Ventura story helped drive Kyle’s book sales was pretty silly. Kyle was a very intriguing guy. Once he started getting the bigger interviews, people bought the book to learn more about HIM – not because they wanted to read a short passage that has already been described to them in the interviews.

      To me, Ventura could have done a far more effective job of “clearing” his name had he done what I suggested at the bottom of my column. Instead, by suing a murdered SEAL’s wife, he made himself look far, far worse than he did coming in.

      Thanks again.

      • Mike

        Hi John. I agree with you that Ventura was simply a side note in Kyle’s book and there was no malice intended. Also, there was no way that the bar fight story helped drive sales of the book, that assertion is indeed laughable. He probably should have considered dropping the lawsuit and go through the media to tell his story since he’s a pro at using the media jackals (his own words). I think his ultimate goal was to get his name back in the papers; he’s missed the spotlight for so long! On a side note, I’ve enjoyed reading your columns for the last year or so. I share many of your conservative ideals and your point of view. Keep up the great writing!

        • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

          Thanks Mike! I appreciate the kind words, and I’m glad you enjoy my columns. I always enjoy thoughtful discussion like the kind you’re providing as well. Take care!

  • Jeff Webb

    If he wasn’t before, Jesse is certainly now a full-fledged member of the Former Military Members Who Have Lost Every Ounce of Respectability They Ever Had Club, along with the likes of Murtha and Kerry.

    • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

      Hard to disagree with that.

  • Skip in VA

    I would like to sue Ventura (is that his real name?) for being insensitive, greedy, malicious, stupid (oops! can’t fix stupid), unpatriotic, gross, vindictive, racist (I think his suing the wife is his version of the “war on women”), a complete boor, and a complete and unmitigated pinhead. Otherwise, I have no beef with this piece of chicken poop.

    • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

      lol.

    • Jeff Webb

      One person who should have sued him is Ann-Margaret, because if anyone deserved to be called “The Body”…

  • http://www.e-marketingpartner.com/ Bob

    I’m just wondering how a jury decided it was possible to do $1.8 million in damage to his reputation…

    • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

      Who knows? From what I read, Jesse started receiving fewer job offers in 2012 and his lawyer presented that as evidence that what Kyle said was hurting Ventura economically. Seems like a huge stretch to me, especially considering that Ventura was still finding work after saying some equally astounding things. Ventura’s lawyer believed that $15 million would have been a fair verdict, but my guess is that they were surprised they won anything. I certainly was.

    • brickman

      They heard evidence.

  • Royalsfan67

    I am mostly on the side of Kyle here, but I did hear something that makes sense. Everyone seems to be up in arms about his widow having to come up with 2 million dollars, but actually the publisher has liability insurance and that will be covering the amount of the judgement. Does not make Ventura any less of a vile person, but at least we don’t have to fret about the widow.

    • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

      That’s a fair point.

      My hunch is that the publisher will probably step up and be able to apply that insurance, and I hope that’s the case. It wasn’t the publisher that he sued, however. It was the widow… right in the wake of her husband’s death.

      My guess is that even if the publisher’s insurance covers the $1.8 million, the Kyle family is at least on the line for the court costs.

      • Athena619

        I couldn’t imagine that Chris Kyle’s business manager and/or book agent didn’t have a Professional Liability policy and/or Media/Book Liability before it was published. Also, the publisher would normally add them as a named insured on their policy in case of claims like this. The Cost of Defense is normally a separate coverage in the policy and doesn’t have a limit (and paid directly to the attorney as long as the cost is responsible), unless that company has it included (Shared) in the overall liability amount. Also, the attorney for the lawsuits are normally from the insurance company as they most experience in that field and not the Family attorney.The real question is the amount of insurance they had on the policy. Standard is about 1M, Top selling authors/publishers/magazines between 5-10m.

        • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

          Thanks for the insight, Athena!

          • Royalsfan67

            I am pretty sure liability insurance would be at least 10 million. I used to own a small business and I carried 3 million.
            I do believe there should be some outrage I just want it directed in the right direction (Jesse Ventura) instead of at the money.

  • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

    Love that the first two comments to this column were made almost immediately after I posted it. You guys ought to try reading more than just the headline.

  • BoDogit3

    Its not Jesse Venturas fault that Chris Kyle was a liar. This was proven in court so deal with it. The truth is all that matters.

  • Mac

    Kyle did his fair share of lying, claiming to gun down some people in the states. No police involvement, didn’t happen. Same with the so-called incident with Ventura.