Everything I Needed to Know About Chris Kyle I Learned From Jesse Ventura

Column by Travis Irvine.

Exclusive to STR

The other week, in addition to the usual celebrations for the ridiculous holiday known as Groundhog Day, the citizens of Texas celebrated another slightly-less-ridiculous holiday on Feb. 2: Chris Kyle Day. I'm not sure what traditions would stem from such a holiday (if you snipe a person and it's a terrorist, do we get 6 more months of war in Iraq?!) but nonetheless, Governor Greg Abbott signed the official proclamation commemorating the celebrated/controversial sniper from Texas on Monday. Abbott did so while noting that Kyle's critics "have the First Amendment right to criticize Chris Kyle because he had the guts to stand up and defend this country and its Constitution. They should all be on their knees thanking Chris Kyle."

Naturally, Abbott was referring to criticism that's come from lefty entertainment figures and media personalities since the release of American Sniper, the box-office blockbuster based on Kyle's book. For the past month or so, Kyle's legacy has been up for constant debate -- he's been defended by his fans, right-wing media and politicians like Abbott, but taken to task on Twitter by leftwing mouthpieces like Michael Moore, who called snipers "cowards," and Seth Rogen, who compared the film to Nazi propaganda. Moore and Rogen's comments drew so much backlash -- Kyle's brother even called Moore fat! -- that the celebrities actually got banned from a steakhouse in Michigan. So I guess the lesson here is if you dislike Chris Kyle or American Sniper or snipers in general, stay off of Twitter and out of steakhouses in Michigan.

However, there is one critic of Kyle who spoke up well before the sniper was tragically killed two years ago: former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura. In this case, Ventura, a controversial figure and former Navy SEAL himself, had more than just opinions on Twitter. In his book, Kyle wrote that he once got in a fight with a guy who was against the war, referring to him as "Scruff Face." Kyle claimed he punched the guy in his face, and it's a great story for a veteran/hero/patriot to tell. But when Kyle started saying in interviews that "Scruff Face" was actually Jesse Ventura -- and the book's sales skyrocketed -- Ventura went public to deny the story. Ventura's lawyers asked the publishers to remove the section from the book and for Kyle to stop telling the tale, but by then the damage to Ventura's reputation was done. The rest is not-so-flattering history. Ventura filed the defamation lawsuit, Kyle was tragically killed, and the suit transferred to Kyle's estate, for which his widow Taya was the executor. Ventura won the case and was awarded $1.8 million last summer.

Media personalities everywhere -- especially from Fox News -- obviously jumped at the opportunity to condemn Ventura for "suing a dead Navy SEAL's widow" and "taking her money." Heck, even Anderson Cooper asked if Ventura had "no shame." It was the same knee-jerk reaction that people are currently having to Moore and Rogen's comments, but like any knee-jerk reaction, people are missing the point. Kyle made up a story about another Navy SEAL and made money off it. Ventura went through the legal system to prove it and won. Even if Kyle weren't tragically killed two years ago, this case would still have been decided the same way. Defamation cases are extremely hard to win, but Ventura's lawyers convinced the jury that Kyle's lies hurt Ventura's reputation. Some news sources, ranging from Slate to National Review Online, have been able to look past the knee-jerking to tell the truth.

Now with Kyle and American Sniper so prominently in the news, Ventura says he doesn't regret suing Kyle and why should he? I'm not crazy about him throwing around the "Nazi" word to make his point, but unlike Moore and Rogen, Ventura served with the Navy SEALs and had a legitimate legal beef. Then he got his day in court and won. For media personalities to go after Ventura is a simple-minded attack on Ventura's obviously-controversial character and a complete disregard of the facts. I understand that Ventura is a divisive figure, even though I'll always just love him for this and especially this. But for a guy to make up a story about one of his fellow Navy SEALs and make millions of dollars off it is not honorable. And as Ventura has noted, "You can't have honor if you're a liar. There is no honor in lying."

That being said, in a knee-jerk reaction country like ours, Ventura should probably stay out of the steakhouses in Michigan.

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Travis Irvine's picture
Columns on STR: 6

Travis Irvine is a stand-up comedian, independent filmmaker and unsuccessful politician. His campaign and comedy videos have been featured on The Jay Leno Show, PBS’s NewsHour, The Huffington Post and Funny Or Die. He was also once on The People's Court. A recent graduate of Columbia University's School of Journalism, he currently lives and performs in New York City.



Douglas Herman's picture

Thanks Trav, 
Very good stuff but your humor / wisdom is wasted on the sheep. I heard about the Texas holiday and know some Texans. Governor Abbott seems like a complete maroone, as Bugs Bunny would say.

Paul's picture

The folks over at lewrockwell.com have no use for Kyle either.

It is possible to be a scumbag and an excellent sniper at the same time. From what I've read, Kyle fits this bill.

This is not to say that the ability to place shots on a target at 800 yards is not a useful skill. I think everybody should give it a try.