The Navy veteran addresses his lawsuit against the Chris Kyle estate
American Sniper is generating more controversy.
“The book is not a true story,” the Navy veteran and former pro wrestler, 63, said on his podcast We the People with Jesse Ventura. “The book had fabrication and fiction written into it.”
Ventura won a defamation lawsuit again Kyle before before Kyle’s death on a Texas gun range in 2013. The suit stemmed from claims in Kyle’s book that a person identified only as “Scruff Face” had spoken out against the war in Iraq and against Navy SEALS. Kyle wrote that “Scruff Face” said he hated America and that the SEALs deserve to lose a few in the war. In subsequent interviews on radio and television, Kyle identified Scruff Face as Ventura.
“My lawsuit was originally started because this person in the chapter, Scruff Face, committed treason,” said Ventura. “This was fabricated. It never happened. I would never say anything like that against my own unit or the military itself.”
Kyle also claimed that he had punched Ventura over his remarks in a 2006 bar fight – an incident Ventura said never took place, claiming instead that it was fabricated by Kyle to increase sales and “generate millions of dollars for [publisher] HarperCollins.”
After Kyle’s death, Ventura substituted Kyle’s widow, Taya – the executor of her late husband’s estate – as the defendant.
In July 2014, a Minnesota jury issued a verdict in favor of Ventura, awarding him $1.8 million: $500,000 for defamation and $1.3 million for unjust enrichment.
“[One] of the grave misconceptions about this lawsuit: I was taking money from a widow and her children. No, I wasn’t,” Ventura said on his podcast, asserting that Taya’s legal expenses were paid by a “giant insurance company.”
The Star Tribune reported that the $500,000 awarded to Ventura for defamation would be paid by the insurance from HarperCollins, but the $1.3 million unjust enrichment award would “presumably come from the money earned from the book.”
In his podcast, Ventura also said that he offered to settle the case “four or five times” before going to trial, asking HarperCollins remove the Scruff Face chapter and for Chris Kyle “to publicly admit to the lie; they refused.”
As for the monetary award for the trial, “The jury gave me what they felt I was damaged,” Ventura said. “The majority of that money is going to my attorney.”
In September, Taya filed a motion for a new trial, but the motion was denied in November. The next month, attorneys for Taya filed notice of an intent to appeal.
When it comes to the movie adaptation of Kyle’s book, however, Ventura – who filed a new lawsuit in December against HarperCollins – took a neutral stance.
“I have nothing against the filmmakers,” he said.