Jesse Ventura sounds off on weed, suing Chris Kyle, and why he wouldn’t enlist today.
If there’s one thing that’s been consistent about Jesse Ventura over the years, through his many professional highs and lows, it’s that he always finds a way to piss people off.
The former Navy SEAL (he was a member of Underwater Demolition Team 12), wrestler, Minnesota governor, and author of The Marijuana Manifesto is like a one-man controversy machine, whether he’s slamming organized religion (which he called “a crutch for weak-minded people”), spreading 9/11 conspiracy theories (Dick Cheney “allowed it to happen to further their agenda,” he said), or comparing recreational hunting to war (“until you’ve hunted man,” he said, “you haven’t hunted yet”).
Ventura is back in the headlines again, thanks to a new gig on Russian television. The World According To Jesse, hosted by a man known in his wrestling days as “The Body,” is funded by the Russian government, although Ventura claims that no less an authority than Vladimir Putin promised him he won’t be censored. In a promo for the show, Ventura talks about freedom while wearing a leather vest with his own image on the back, and riding his hog across a deserted highway.
Ventura is also continuing his lawsuit against late Navy SEAL and American Sniper author Chris Kyle. In the 2012 memoir, Kyle claimed that during a gathering of SEALs to honor Michael Monsoor, a SEAL killed in Iraq in 2006 who posthumously received the Medal of Honor, he got into an argument with a man he identified only as “a celebrity I’ll call Scruff Face.” The unnamed person was loudly criticizing the Iraq War, saying the SEALs “deserve to lose a few” because of their involvement in the overseas conflict. “Being level-headed and calm can only last so long,” Kyle wrote. “I laid him out. Tables flew. Stuff happened. Scruff Face ended up on the floor.”
It eventually came out that “Scruff Face” was Ventura, and he sued for libel. In 2014, a federal jury awarded Ventura $500,000 for defamation and $1.3 million for unjust enrichment. The verdict was overturned by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2016, and earlier this year the Supreme Court denied Ventura’s appeal. Case closed? Not quite. Ventura intends to bring the case back to court yet again, even though the guy he’s technically suing hasn’t been alive for almost five years.
We caught up with Ventura as he was preparing for his keynote speech at the upcoming Cannabis World Congress & Business Exposition — he takes the stage this Thursday, June 15, at the Javits Center in New York — to talk about weed, the Russians, how the United States sometimes acts like Nazis, the iffy moral ground of suing widows, and why there hasn’t been a justifiable war since World War II.
Let’s start with marijuana. You’ve been arguing for legalizing weed for years. Why is this issue so important to you?
As you learn more about marijuana, you realize that this plant is unbelievably tremendous. It’s medical purposes seem to be unlimited, It’s the least dangerous recreational drug, in my opinion, No one has ever died from overdosing on marijuana. You can’t do it. If you do die, you’ll go down in the history books.
But why are you so passionate about it personally?
Because it’s given me my quality of life back. Someone extremely close to me developed epileptic seizures. This person was seizing two to three times a week. It’s terrifying. Your life is gone, because you don’t know when the seizures will hit. Well, this person went on four different pharmaceutical medicines, and none of them worked, and they all had horrible side effects. So we drove to Colorado to try medical marijuana. This person has not had a seizure since. Not one! My goal now is to make marijuana legal across the United States of America so that other people don’t have to suffer.
You think that’s realistic? Will we have total legalization in our lifetime?
I hope so, but it won’t happen under Trump. When he talks about making America great again, is he talking about moving us backwards instead of forwards? It seems he wants us to go back to the 50s. That’s ridiculous. We’re human beings. We’ve been to the moon, now we want to go to Mars.
Are you still considering running for president? You’ve been hinting about it for years.
I always think about it, but then you look at the amount of work involved, and I look at the age I am now. I’m 65.
So what? Trump is 70.
Being the president ages you. Look at some of these past guys when they came into office, how young they look. By the time they get out, they’ve aged 20 years.
So it’s not worth the stress?
I don’t know. It might be. I have to make sure I want the job before I go after it.
That’s a good point. I don’t think Trump realized he didn’t really want the job.
That’s right! Trump is finding out right now that it isn’t as easy as he thought it would be. If you accept the job, you have to do the job. You know what Trump’s problem is, in my opinion? He doesn’t understand that our government constitutionally has three major forms of power to check and balance each other. He can’t just fire people anytime he feels like it. He’s not on The Apprentice anymore.
What do you make of accusations that the Russians meddled in our election?
Let me put it to you this way. If Hillary had won, you wouldn’t be hearing a thing about it.
Okay. But that’s not my question. Did it happen? Do you believe it happened?
It doesn’t matter. How many elections have we interfered in? We’re the pot calling the kettle black. Is attempting to kill Fidel Castro an interference? We tried that at least a dozen times. The hypocrisy to me is astounding. How can the United States be appalled that someone tried to influence our election when it’s standard operating procedure for us? Now, let me do a shameless promo. This is the kind of talk you’re going to get from The World According to Jesse on Russian television.
Since you work for the Russians now, shouldn’t we take your opinions about Russian interference with a grain of salt?
Listen, let me explain something. My mother and father were both World War II veterans. My mom was a nurse in North Africa, and my father had six Bronze Battle Stars. He fought in North Africa, Normandy, Battle of the Bulge, Remagen Bridge, and Berlin. He saw it all. My dad didn’t talk about the war much, but you know what he did talk about? The friendships he had with the Russians in Berlin. Our allies! Now, the question that has always haunted me, how did they become our enemy before the war was even over? It’s because of Allen Dulles and the CIA, who were controlled by Wall Street. Wall Street would rather get in bed with Nazis or fascists than socialists. That’s why Russia immediately became our enemy.
But we’re talking about modern-day Russia. Putin seems like a terrible leader and a borderline Bond villain. Do you trust him?
When people ask me about Vladimir Putin, cause I met him, do you know how I describe him? He’s a very patriotic Russian. Shouldn’t the president of Russia be a patriotic Russian? Shouldn’t his best interests be in Russia? That’s kind of his job.
But that doesn’t make him a good person, does it?
My point is, we’ve been enemies of Russia my entire life. Let’s try friendship for awhile! That’s one of the reasons I took the job at Russian television. I’m 65, I have to pick out my battles now. You want my funny answer?
In light of the U.S. government’s plans to build a wall on our southern border, you’d think we’d want to be friends with Russia. After all, they’re white.
Wow. I’m not sure I’d call that funny.
I say that tongue in cheek, but look at the Mexican situation. We’re scared to death of the brown-skinned people. We want to build walls to keep them out of here. I love Mexico and I love the Mexican people, so I take great offense when we do that up here. These are the hardest working people I’ve ever met, and I’ve met them all.
Let’s talk about your lawsuit with Chris Kyle. Get us up to speed.
Well, first of all, Chris Kyle is a liar. I want that brought right out. He threw me under the bus. He threw an old Vietnam veteran under the bus so he could get fame and fortune. And then he got his buddies to come in and try to lie for him in court. They lost! I won!
But that ruling got overturned.
Now we have a legal system you have to deal with on the appeals level. In the appeals court, two of the judges ruled against me and abolished the whole thing and ordered a new trial. And it’s all because they didn’t get the result they wanted.
So you’re going back to court?
My attorney told me that when they send it back to a new trial, 90% of the time it doesn’t happen. A settlement takes place. We’re on the verge that one could. But I told them there will never be a settlement unless they apologize to me.
By “them” you mean his estate. Obviously Kyle can’t apologize.
I want an apology. I went to court to restore my reputation. But we still have to get some compensation. They destroyed me. I can’t get a job. It’s one of the reasons I work for the Russians now. Mainstream media won’t hire me.
You got blacklisted because of Kyle’s book?
Absolutely! That story broke January of 2012, and I lost my television show immediately. Conspiracy Theory, it got cancelled. I was supposed to be a presenter at the Nashville Hockey League awards and NBC cancelled me, said I was too controversial. This is all because Chris Kyle felt the need to lie.
If he did lie, and let’s assume for this conversation that what you’re saying is true.
It’s all true.
Maybe it is, I don’t know, I wasn’t there. But let’s say it was. Why did he do it? Of all the people he could make up a story about, why you? Why did he single you out?
Well, I’m the most high profile. I’ll tell you why, it came out in court. You know what the presale of his book was?
2,000 copies. After he went on TV and trashed me, you know how much his book sales jumped in one day? 100,000. It sold 100,000 books in one day. You have to look at this like a rocket going to the moon. A rocket needs a booster to get it out of the atmosphere. Once it gets into space it can propel itself there. I was the booster. I catapulted this book to number one.
You think it was that calculated?
Everything about it was calculated. He rewrote the scene with me several times to make it sound more believable. And he still didn’t get his facts right. He says he knocked me out with one punch? I’m on blood thinners. If he’d actually done that, I’d be dead. I’d at least have a huge black eye. None of that happened. He also said I was drunk, and again, I’m on blood thinners, so there’s no way that could’ve happened. The evidence was so overwhelming that the jury sided with me against a dead war hero and his grieving, crying wife. She got up on the stand and bawled. Yet the jury did their job. They looked at the evidence and came back with, “Jesse was telling the truth.”
His widow is a big reason why so many people feel uncomfortable with this. Whether Kyle was lying or telling the truth, he’s gone. You can’t get justice from him anymore. So why go after his widow? Does it really clear your name if you take millions away from her and her kids?
The truth is, it didn’t cost them a cent. That’s why the case was overturned. It was being paid for completely by the publisher and insurance company.