ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura testified Friday that he was not involved in a confrontation or fight with a military sniper who wrote in his book that he decked the former pro wrestler after an argument in 2006 at a California bar.
Ventura testified Friday in his defamation lawsuit against the estate of author Chris Kyle, a former U.S. Navy SEAL who was fatally shot last year at a Texas gun range. In his autobiography, Kyle had claimed he punched Ventura and knocked him over after Ventura made disparaging remarks about the SEALs.
Ventura told the jury he posed for pictures — some of which were shown in court — and signed autographs for younger SEALS in the bar that night, but he doesn’t recall arguing with them and was not involved in a confrontation. He also said he doesn’t recall seeing anyone else fight. He said he didn’t know Kyle before that night and has no idea if Kyle was even there.
“I have no recollection of it whatsoever,” he said.
Kyle is regarded as the deadliest military sniper in U.S. history. In his bestselling autobiography, he included details about a 2006 incident in which he says he punched a guy he called “Scruff Face,” later identified as Ventura, after the man allegedly said the SEALs “deserved to lose a few.”
Ventura has said the story was made up so Kyle could gain notoriety for his book. Ventura claims it harmed his reputation, and now his attorneys are tasked with proving that Kyle’s account about that night was false and that Kyle either knew it was false or recklessly disregarded the truth.
Ventura testified about his affinity for the SEALs: He also has a SEAL tattoo on his chest, which the judge did not allow him to show in court.
He testified that being named “Co-Frogman of the Millennium” in 2000 by a publication for underwater demolition teams was the “biggest honor in my life,” the Star Tribune reported.
Ventura testified he was in the Coronado, California, bar Oct. 6, 2006, to meet members of his class of SEALs, who were in town for a graduation ceremony. Some younger SEALS were at the bar for a wake for a fallen comrade. In a videotaped deposition, Kyle stood by his own story, saying he punched Ventura because he believed Ventura was going to hit him.
However, Kyle acknowledged he had no direct knowledge of some of details in his story. For example, in his book, he wrote “rumor has it” he gave Ventura a black eye.
Ventura testified Friday that he hasn’t drank alcohol since he began taking a blood thinner in 2002 that causes him to bruise and bleed easily. Pictures of Ventura taken in the days after the supposed fight show no visible injuries.
In addition, Ventura testified, no one at the SEAL events in following few days ever mentioned a confrontation.
Attorney David Bradley Olsen asked if there was anyone else at the bar who looked like Ventura. At the time, he was sporting a long, black beard which he wore in a braid. Ventura replied: “Not to my recollection. I think I had the market cornered on that,” prompting some laughter in the courtroom.
At times, U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle — no relation to Chris Kyle or his widow, Taya — cut Ventura short as he began talking about the Lincoln assassination or his “Conspiracy Theory” television show, which he hosted for three seasons. Olsen had to remind Ventura to simply answer his questions.
Ventura testified he believes he has a duty to question the government. “When politicians fail, you go to war,” he said, adding that the military is a victim of that failure. Olsen asked Ventura about his own best-selling books, noting that the titles of some could be considered controversial or provocative. He asked Ventura if controversy sells books.
“Yes, it does,” Ventura said.
Ventura is expected to be back on the witness stand Monday.
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