The Book That Brought Down The Body: Jesse Ventura Wins $1.8 Million In Lawsuit
Former Governor, Navy SEAL, and pro wrestler Jesse Ventura won a 2-year long defamation of character lawsuit against American Sniper author Chris Kyle. The court case ended yesterday with a $1.8 million decision in favor of Ventura.
What happened, and why is it such a big deal?
Kyle claimed he punched Ventura, knocking him to the floor after Ventura made several negative comments about former President George W. Bush, the United States, and the Navy SEALS in a California bar in 2012. Ventura's responded by saying that none of these claims are true, he'd never met Chris Kyle, and Ventura ended up deciding to file a lawsuit against Chris Kyle for defamation of character.
Most are probably familiar with Ventura, whether it be through his various TV appearances, his political career, or his turn as the mustachioed "sexual tyrannosaurus" in Predator. Fewer are likely to be familiar with Chris Kyle, however.
Kyle claimed to be the deadliest sniper in U.S. military history with 160 confirmed kills and 255 claimed kills, statistics that have been neither confirmed nor denied by the U.S. military. After his honorable discharge in 2009, Kyle moved to Texas with his family, and in 2012 his autobiography American Sniper was released. It is an Amazon bestseller in the Biography and Memoir category and has just over 3,000 5-star reviews. One passage in the book describes the incident between Kyle and Ventura.
So, continuing to claim this was entirely false, Ventura took legal action, a move that would have likely been a sleeper story except that Chris Kyle was killed by a fellow veteran at a Texas gun range shortly after the lawsuit began.
All of a sudden, Ventura's lawsuit was no longer against a man, it was against the memory of a decorated American hero who was killed while attempting to help a fellow soldier through his PTSD. The lawsuit would not punish Kyle, but his widow and fatherless children.
On the surface, this makes Ventura the bad guy. Especially in light of the $1.8 million awarded yesterday. However, there's more to it.
For starters, Ventura's claim is that Kyle's widow had all of her attorney fees paid by insurance whereas Ventura paid out of pocket. He says that his plans for the money consist of paying off his legal fees.
More importantly, Ventura was a regular attendee of SEAL reunions and events, and he claims that he was no longer welcome after word had spread that he'd badmouthed the organization:
I can't go to a SEAL reunion anymore. That was the one place that I always felt safe. I can't go there anymore. I would be looking over my shoulder now wondering who's going to come after me next. And so, don't think I come out of this unscathed.
In light of the decision, HarperCollins has decided to remove the passage in question from subsequent editions of American Sniper.
It's a very interesting case that has aroused feelings in many. Was Chris Kyle wrong, and what does it mean to claim he was wrong? Does a person ever earn the right to inflate his or her story? What does it mean for Ventura to be right factually, and does this make him right morally?
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