MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura denounced the late “American Sniper” author Chris Kyle on Monday as an “American Liar” and said he feels vindicated in his five-year legal battle against the former Navy SEAL and his estate, though he declined to say how much his settlement is worth.
At a news conference Monday, Ventura would not tell reporters how much money he received for settling his defamation case but noted he was smiling about it. He and his lawyer would not say whether the money came from publisher HarperCollins or its insurance company. But Ventura said it didn’t come from Kyle’s widow or his estate. Ventura also said he didn’t get an apology.
“All I’ll say is my settlement is now in the bank,” Ventura said. “That speaks and tells you everything else about it.”
“The settlement and all the negotiations surrounding the settlement are confidential,” Ventura attorney David Olsen said.
A Minnesota jury awarded Ventura $1.8 million in 2014, but a federal appeals court threw out the verdict. Both sides were preparing for a new trial before the settlement was announced in court filings last week. Ventura also dropped a related case against HarperCollins Publishers.
Ventura, a former Underwater Demolition Teams/SEAL member, sued Kyle in 2012, alleging that Kyle defamed him in his best-selling autobiography. Kyle is regarded as the deadliest sniper in U.S. military history with 160 confirmed kills. The lawsuit continued against his estate after Kyle was killed by a troubled fellow veteran in 2013.
Kyle recounted punching out a man he nicknamed “Scruff Face” for saying the SEALs “deserve to lose a few” in Iraq, at a bar near a California SEAL base that was the site of both a SEAL reunion that Ventura attended and a wake for a fallen SEAL that Kyle helped host. Kyle later said he was referring to Ventura.
But Ventura continued to insist the alleged confrontation never happened, and that the story made him an outcast in the tight-knit SEAL community.
“This was fake news, people,” Ventura told reporters. “And this was fake news at its finest. Because the whole thing is fake.”
Ventura said the jury and the trial judge agreed with him, but slammed the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals for overturning the judgment in 2016. The appeals court cited legal and procedural errors in the trial without deciding whether Ventura’s or Kyle’s allegations were true. Ventura also attacked major news organizations that filed an amicus brief in the appeal asking that the jury’s verdict be reversed.
Ventura, a former professional wrestler and occasional movie actor who served as Minnesota’s governor from 1993-2003, now hosts “The World According to Jesse” for the Russian government-funded RT television network.
A HarperCollins representative declined comment while an attorney for the Kyle estate did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
By STEVE KARNOWSKI
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