Jesse Ventura possesses an unusual and varied resume. Born James Janos, Ventura was a member of a U.S. Navy underwater demolition team who went on to the World Wrestling Federation portraying a flamboyant, sexually-ambiguous professional wrestler nicknamed “The Body.” Despite his participation in the garish WWF circus – a role that might have disqualified him for elected office until you think about Ronald Reagan, Clint Eastwood, Fred Thompson and Sonny Bono – Ventura succeeded in becoming the governor of Minnesota. Ventura had a radio show, was the host of the television shows “Conspiracy Theory” and “Off the Grid,” and did some movies, most memorably playing a beefy commando-type named Blain in 1987’s “Predator” who declares after taking some shrapnel, “I ain’t got time to bleed.” Ventura used that instant cult line as the title of his book. Damn, the dude is an author too.
Now you can add douche-bag litigant to Jesse Ventura’s resume.
Just the other day, a jury in St. Paul, MN awarded Jesse a $1.8 million judgment against the estate of Chris Kyle, a former Navy SEAL member, for defaming “The Body” in his book “American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History.” Kyle claimed in his book that he encountered an unnamed former SEAL he called “scruff face” in a bar, and punched him out when “scruffy” made a disparaging remark to the effect that as the SEALs were conducting themselves poorly overseas, they “deserved to lose a few.” Although Kyle never mentioned the real name of the asshole in the bar, he later confirmed the person he wrote of was none other than super action hero, Jesse Ventura.
Ventura denies any of this took place and sued Kyle for defamation, but even as Kyle was murdered a while back and is therefore unavailable to defend himself, Ventura found it necessary to continue the litigation against his estate anyway. It therefore became the burden of Kyle’s widow and executrix of the estate, Taya, to defend against the charges.
Considering all the factors, it seems astounding that Ventura prevailed in court. First of all, the burden of proof in cases of libel and defamation against famous people is nigh unsurmountable. Once a person becomes a public figure, First Amendment protections for a tormentor kick in hard. Hell, Larry Flynt ran a cartoon in his “Hustler” magazine years ago portraying religious wing-nut Jerry Falwell having sex with his mother in an outhouse. Falwell sued . . . and lost!
Secondly, Kyle says it happened, Ventura says no. Without any witnesses you might think the jury would lean toward finding for Kyle, given that he’s supposedly innocent until proven guilty, and this was a case of one man’s word against another. But there was a witness – and he backed up Kyle. At the trial, another SEAL veteran, Jeremiah Dinnell, testified he saw Kyle punch Ventura after the former governor said that “what we are doing overseas, we deserve to lose guys.” Dinnell stated he watched Ventura fall and get up again. Ok – two against one. Even better for Kyle’s estate.
Thirdly, Ventura has a long history of being outspoken on issues of government over-reach, so it should not come out of left field that he might take a dim view of America’s mis-adventures overseas. Examples of his positions include the beliefs that crime statistics are distorted to encourage racism, thet 2008 financial bailouts were conspiracy to keep fat cats in business, that banks and privately run prisons gets rich on the drug war, that the Bush administration knew 9/11 was coming, and that the TSA’s full-body scanners are unconstitutional. Regarding the scanners, Ventura sued the U.S. government, and after a judge threw him out, Jesse went on a rant, saying he would henceforth refer to the country as the Fascist States of America. “I will never stand for a national anthem again. I will turn my back and raise a fist the same way Tommy Smith and John Carlos did in the ’68 Olympics.” Does it stretch the imagination to believe he might later make the alleged caustic remarks about Navy SEALs?
In the end, Ventura prevailed in court and won a huge judgment that will essentially be paid for by the widow of Jesse’s harsh critic. To me, that seems unseemly. The amount of the judgment was determined in part to compensate Ventura for lost business; he claimed that offers from producers and promoters dried up after Kyle conflated him with “scruff face.” More likely, the Ventura cultural phenomenon petered out on its own, as is so often the case with over-the-top loudmouths whose shtick devolves from being funny to just plain irritating (think Morton Downey, Jr.)
Jesse should accept his win like a man, and renounce the judgment. Give the widow a break.
You really want us to leave you in peace?
Israel is again engaged in armed conflict with one of its neighbors, this time the Palestinians and their Hamas-led government in the narrow Gaza Strip. And once again, America is trying to lead a futile effort to secure a truce. Secretary of State John Kerry, like all his predecessors going back to the 1970s, is shuttling about the Middle East and Europe in search of a solution. Truly a thankless job. And for his efforts, Kerry got the back of the hand from Israel Minister of Defense Moshe Ya’alon who said, “The only thing that can ‘save us’ is for John Kerry to win a Nobel Prize and leave us in peace.” Now that’s what I call gratitude.
I wonder if Ya’alon also wants the U.S. to leave Israel in peace by withholding the $3 billion a year in foreign aid they receive. Does he want the U.S. to stop being the only country in the world that consistently votes against U.N. resolutions that condemn Israel. Will Ya’alon call for the return of the U.S.-funded Iron Dome missile defense system that costs $50 million a pop, plus $40K-$100K per Hamas-fired rocket shot down? I suspect not.
Given that sentiment among regular Americans and the politicians who have long unblinkingly supported Israel seems to be turning a tad sour, I would suggest that the Israeli leadership do an attitude check before they alienate the only friend they have in the world.