Them's fighting words to Jesse "The Body" Ventura, Minnesota's controversial former governor and TV provocateur.
Ventura, whose real name is James Janos, recently filed a defamation lawsuit against Navy SEAL Chris Kyle over the portrayal of a bar fight Kyle claims they had six years ago in Coronado, Calif. Kyle wrote about the alleged incident in his recent memoir "American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History."
Under the headline, "Punching Out Scruff Face," Kyle describes a confrontation with a "celebrity" who served in the military during the Vietnam War and who "most people seem to believe was a SEAL." He said Scruff Face winters in Baja California, opposed the war in Iraq and described the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as a "conspiracy."
Though he didn't name Ventura, Kyle has since acknowledged that Scruff Face is Ventura.
In his lawsuit filed in Hennepin County District Court, Ventura denies any such fight took place and alleges that Kyle defamed him in an effort to promote his book. He's seeking unspecified monetary damages, including any profits from the book's sales.
According to Kyle's portrayal, the incident occurred in 2006 in a Coronado bar frequented by SEALs. Kyle was attending a wake for Mike Mansoor, who received the Medal of Honor after throwing himself on a grenade to save fellow SEALs in Iraq.
Kyle says Ventura was in town to give a commencement speech for a class of SEALs and was trash-talking the war, former President George W. Bush and America in general.
Mansoor's family was upset by Ventura's comments, so Kyle says he told Ventura, "We're all in mourning," and asked him to tone it down. He claims Ventura took a fighting stance and said, "You deserve to lose a few."
Kyle wrote that he suggested they both go their own way, but Ventura swung at him. "I laid him out," Kyle wrote. "Scruff Face ended up on the floor."
In his lawsuit, Ventura raises the specter of a conspiracy. News Corp. owns both HarperCollins and Fox News. He notes that the book's publisher, William Morrow, is an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, and that Kyle was interviewed about the alleged incident in January on the Fox News Channel program "The O'Reilly Factor."
On Friday, Kyle filed a petition to move the suit to U.S. District Court in St. Paul. He said he stands by his story.
Dan Browning • 612-673-4493