MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura launched Tuesday a public relations campaign to explain why he filed the high-profile defamation suit he won last week.
In a wide-ranging interview on WCCO Radio, and in an online video on Ora.tv, Ventura repeatedly said the lawsuit was not about the money; it was about clearing his name.
“For me, it was always about the lie,” said Ventura, the former Navy SEAL and professional wrestler, who said he would have settled for an apology if the publishers of “American Sniper” admitted they fabricated a story about him.
“All they did was offer money,” he said. “I refused, because I wanted to get my name back.”
Chris Kyle, the author of the best-selling book, said he “punched out” Ventura for making offensive comments about Navy SEALs, an incident Ventura denies ever happened.
A jury last week awarded Ventura $1.8 million in damages for defamation and “unjust enrichment”.
An unapologetic Ventura said he had no second thoughts about suing Chris Kyle’s widow, Taya Kyle, after he was murdered.
He said she used her widow status for sympathy, calling it a legal tactic to make him look bad in court.
“(They thought) the upcoming court battle would look a whole lot better,” he said. “The widow? And the children? Look how I’ve been beaten up over that.”
Ventura said much of the $1.8 million in damages will go to his legal team, whose fees were in “the high hundreds of thousands of dollars”.
But none of it will go to charity or to Taya Kayle, whom he said “is making millions” off the book and an upcoming movie.
“Just because she’s a widow does not mean she can profit from defamation and slander. And that’s what she’s done,” he said.
Ventura also said that not keeping the money would go against what the jury wanted: to reward him for the financial damage he says he suffered because of the book.
“I would never counteract the jury like that,” he said. “To me, that would be like slapping the jury in the face.”