The jury’s verdict is in and the majority of them ruled in favor of Jesse Ventura. Ventura won a $1.8 million settlement against the estate of Chris Kyle, author of the book American Sniper, for defamation of character. The award broke down to $1.3 million for unjust enrichment and $500,000 for defamation. It was an 8-2 vote and has made the former wrestler a bad guy once again.
Kyle’s 2012 best-selling book described a bar fight during which Kyle decked a man who was later identified as Ventura. What has people upset is that Kyle was shot and killed in 2013 on a Texas shooting range, which means that the judgement will come out of his estate. Taking money from the estate of a fallen Navy SEAL is not helping Ventura’s image and popularity, especially since that estate is run by Kyle’s widow.
Far from being a complete victory, the jury’s decision in his favor has backfired against Ventura. His journey from Navy SEAL to wrestling bad guy to Governor Ventura with White House aspirations and back again to bad guy, as well as taking advantage of an innocent widow, is certainly a life’s story filled with controversy.
Rarely during his wrestling career was Ventura ever beaten, and even as governor he maintained his tough guy image. It is no surprise, therefore, that Ventura denied that the bar fight ever happened, much less that he was decked. Ventura’s lawyers argued that book sales reached 1.5 million and the incident was reported on television to millions more. As a result, they claimed that Ventura suffered irreparable harm.
Once the verdict came out, it did not take long for Ventura to become the bad guy once again. Extensive criticism is being directed his way for taking advantage of Kyle’s widow and children. Many felt that the suit should have been dropped once Chris Kyle was shot, and that carrying the suit to trial does not provide any vindication for Ventura, but instead paints him as insensitive.
Ventura’s life includes, interestingly enough, a tour as a Navy SEAL. After completing his SEAL training he served honorably in Viet Nam, where he made many parachute jumps and deep-sea dives. He was discharged in 1973.
He joined the wrestling ranks in 1975 and quickly rose to stardom as Jesse “The Body” Ventura. His persona, physical appearance, and his charisma made him a fan favorite. His big sunglasses, pink tights, and outspoken style fit his “bad guy” image perfectly. Towards the end of his wrestling career he became a commentator, which ultimately led to some movie roles. He played a “good guy” with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie Predator.
After becoming upset with local government in 1990, he ran for mayor of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. He won the election by upsetting the 18-year incumbent. His mayoral success led to a run for the governorship as a Reform Party candidate. His down-to-earth style and an ability to connect with everyday people during the gubernatorial debates won him the election in 1998.
There was some talk about Ventura running for president. His disappointment with the party’s platform and Reform candidate Pat Buchanan caused him to leave the party and abandon any presidential aspirations.
Ventura never walked away from a confrontation, and that is what endeared him to millions of followers. He was often brusque and brutally honest, and was never afraid to speak his mind. His history shows that he came up through the ranks and he never had anything handed to him.
Perhaps it is his aggressive demeanor that contributed to where Ventura is today. His reputation has taken a severe hit as he has become the “bad guy” once again.
Opinion by Hans Benes