Conspiracy theorists awaiting Wednesday night's premiere of "Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura" might take interest in a curious comment Ventura made in the Los Angeles Times this weekend.
Ventura, who has been doing the media rounds promoting his new venture on TruTV, told the paper that MSNBC cancelled his show "Jesse Ventura's America" in 2003 because he did not support the Iraq War. He said the network "in essence" paid him to be silent, which allowed him to purchase a house in Mexico.
This is not your first venture into TV hosting since leaving the governorship. What happened to "Jesse Ventura's America," which ran briefly on MSNBC in 2003?
It was awful. I was basically silenced. When I came out of office, I was the hottest commodity out there. There was a bidding war between CNN, Fox and MSNBC to get my services. MSNBC ultimately won. I was being groomed for a five day-a-week TV show by them. Then, all of a sudden, weird phone calls started happening: "Is it true Jesse doesn't support the war in Iraq?"
My contract said I couldn't do any other cable TV or any news shows, and they honored and paid it for the duration of it. So in essence I had my silence purchased. Why do you think you didn't hear from me for three years? I was under contract. They wouldn't even use me as a consultant!
When you live in Mexico, your houses all have names. I almost named my house Casa MSNBC because they bought it. I was paid like a professional athlete, and I got very wealthy. For doing nothing.
When Ventura's show was cancelled in 2003, a Star Tribune article noted that he was receiving "a reported" $2 million annually -- certainly enough to live comfortably in Baja. A source "close to the production" said at the time that the show was cancelled because of high production costs.
MSNBC did not respond to a request for comment this morning about the allegation, which has been re-reported on several media blogs. Though it seems like a fresh swipe at the network (and an odd one since they are considered liberal), a search of the Star Tribune archives - most of which is no longer available online - reveals that Ventura made the same claim in 2004.
[Ventura] said he no longer talks to news reporters partly because of media accounts of his son's parties in the governor's mansion and partly because of his exclusive contract with the cable-TV network MSNBC. Network spokesman Jeremy Gaines told the Associated Press that Ventura's contract only governs his television appearances.
"They won't put me on the air because I opposed the Iraq war from Day 1," he said of the network. "I honor my contract because they send me a check every two weeks."
Update: MSNBC spokesman Jeremy Gaines declined to comment via e-mail on Ventura's accusations.