Proving once again that he can do anything, former pro-wrestler, Minnesota governor and balding conspiracy theorist Jesse Ventura won a defamation suit against a dead Navy SEAL Tuesday afternoon, and the dead Navy SEAL's estate now owes Jesse Ventura $1.845 million.
Ventura convinced 8 of 10 jurors that former Navy special operator Chris Kyle defamed the ex-governor—who served in the Underwater Demolition Teams, the precursor to the SEALs—in American Sniper, Kyle's bestselling Fox-boosted autobiography.
In the book, Kyle—who claimed to be the nation's "most lethal" sniper with more than 200 alleged kills—said he had cold-cocked Ventura at a post-funeral bar gathering for a deceased shipmate. WaPo's Dan Lamothe explains:
Kyle did not identify Ventura by name in the book, but said that he swung at the individual after he "started running his mouth about the war and everything and anything he could connect to it." That included President George W. Bush and deployed SEALs, who "were doing the wrong thing, killing men and women and children and murdering," the man said, according to Kyle's book. Ventura said the whole episode was fabricated.
Kyle, who was shot to death in 2013 in Texas, alleged that he tried to get the man — identified only as "Mr. Scruff Face" — to keep it down, and he responded by saying the SEALs in the bar "deserve to a lose a few." The man eventually took a swing at him, Kyle alleged, and all hell broke loose.
"Being level-headed and calm can last only so long," Kyle said in his book. "I laid him out. Tables flew. Stuff happened. Scruff Face ended up on the floor."
Kyle later said in interviews that "Scruff Face" was Ventura, and Ventura sued—not over the slightly embarrassing claim that he'd gotten his ass kicked, but over the claim that he was an ornery cuss:
[An attorney for Ventura] said Kyle's claims that Ventura said he hated America, thought the U.S. military was killing innocent civilians in Iraq and that the SEALs "deserve to lose a few" had made him a pariah in the community that mattered most to him — the brotherhood of current and former SEALs.
"One-point-five million people have bought the book," he said. "Millions more heard Fox TV trash Jesse Ventura because of it. And the story went viral on the Internet and will be there forever."
Kyle's estate shouldn't have a problem ponying up; Ventura's attorney estimates that the now-deceased SEAL's book, which was a hit with right wingers and military fetishists, made the author about $6 million.
But the case has far-reaching consequences beyond the money. Now, clearly, people will no longer think of Ventura as a loudmouth with some weird paranoid political ideas. Most importantly, the award ensures that never again, in a bar or a book, will any United States military veteran ever claim to be more of a shit-kicking badass than he really was.
[Photo credit: AP Images]