The widow of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle is facing growing blowback over her late husband’s bestselling memoir, “American Sniper,” now a hit movie and recently the subject of a defamation case by former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura.
Taya Kyle had planned to give interviews this week to promote the movie and her Feb. 8 appearance at Beth El Synagogue’s “Heroes Among Us” series, a major event at the St. Louis Park temple, with tickets ranging from $36 to $300.
But on Monday, she canceled some interviews in the wake of criticism of her late husband’s behavior and questions about whether he should be considered a hero.
“My uncle was killed by a sniper in WWII,” tweeted filmmaker Michael Moore. “Only cowards would do that 2 him, others.” He also decried the description in the movie of Iraqis as “savages,” though he later said in a Facebook post that there were antiwar messages in the movie and that actor Bradley Cooper was “awesome” as Chris Kyle.
Republican Newt Gingrich fired back in his own tweet, “Michael Moore should spend a few weeks with ISIS and Boko Haram. Then he might appreciate @American Sniper. I am proud of our defenders.”
The subject matter of the film, Kyle’s role in killing a record number of people as a sniper in Iraq, “is causing controversy among some in Hollywood for its perceived pro-war message,” USA Today reported Monday.
After proposing that the Star Tribune interview Taya Kyle before her visit to the synagogue, event co-chair Sarah Gruber wrote back Monday: “Her reps just called me and apparently due to some comments made by Michael Moore, they are cutting off her press. They will allow us to schedule some interviews but only related to promoting our event.
“Because of this, any questions related to the current murder trial [involving the disturbed U.S. veteran who killed Kyle] and the Ventura trial are off the table.”
“All members of the military — seaman to admiral, private to general, are heroes in my book,” Beth El Rabbi Avi S. Olitzky wrote in an e-mail to the Star Tribune. “I say that of those committed to civil service as well. Specifically, in the military, we’re taught to salute the rank, not the man. And as Americans, we honor those who have served — packaged with all of their misgivings, should there be any — as heroes among us.”
In a federal trial last summer, Ventura won a $1.8 million verdict from the Kyle estate after convincing a jury that Chris Kyle had defamed him by writing that he decked Ventura in a bar after he made disparaging remarks about SEALs. Taya Kyle is the executor of the estate.
John Borger, her attorney, said Monday that he has told her it’s best not to talk about the legal aspects of the case, which is currently on appeal to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Debbie Lee, a close friend of Chris Kyle who testified for the estate at the trial, said in an interview that she believes he was a hero.
“The lives he saved by his heroic action, we never will exactly know. The terrorists who detonated their grenades or RPGs, who knows if they would come over here and attack us again.”
Taya Kyle will speak at Beth El Synagogue, 5225 Barry St. W., St. Louis Park, at 7 p.m., Feb. 8. Proceeds go to a synagogue program that supports National Guard units.