With words that gotta sting, Jesse Ventura lays into a former Navy SEAL and best-selling author who claims he decked the former governor when he popped off one too many times in a California bar.
Ventura says the description of the six-year-old incident that Chris Kyle wrote about in his book didn't happen, and he provides affidavits from two people who were with him that night who back his story.
And in a legal memo in the federal lawsuit Ventura has filed against Kyle, he lambastes the former sniper as someone more interested in money than virtue.
In the memo's first paragraph, Ventura refers to Tom Brokaw's book, "The Greatest Generation," saying it "chronicles the story of a generation of Americans who went to war, came home, and then quietly dedicated themselves to the business of raising families and building this country."
"Charting a different course, Kyle went to war, came home, wrote a book extolling his heroics, went on TV and radio to promote it, and optioned the movie rights," says the memo filed on behalf of Ventura, the author or co-author of seven books and a former TV host.
The filing says Kyle "either sucker-punched Governor Ventura and should be prosecuted for his crime; or the alleged incident did not occur and he should be held liable for defamation. Kyle can't have it both ways."
Ventura, a former member of the Navy's special forces (he was in the Underwater Demolition Teams, which were later merged with the SEALs), was elected governor of Minnesota in 1998. He served a single term and did not seek re-election.
His pre-governor resume also included stints as a professional wrestler and mayor of Brooklyn Park. After leaving office, he lectured at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and fancies himself a conspiracy theorist.
In the best-seller "American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History," Kyle writes about a 2006 incident at a bar in which he claimed a man he called "Scruff Face" got loud and obnoxious and was saying unpatriotic things.
Kyle, who was discharged in 2009 and runs a Dallas security-training company, says he punched the man, knocking him on his can and giving him a black eye in the process.
The former SEAL (short for Sea, Air, and Land) didn't name Ventura in his book. Ventura (using his given name, James Janos) filed suit, claiming that the book's description left little doubt who "Scruff Face" was.
Kyle has since acknowledged Ventura was the man.
The author has moved to have some of Ventura's suit thrown out, and U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle (who is no relation) will hear arguments on the motion Oct. 10 in federal court in St. Paul.
Ventura's 39-page memorandum opposing Kyle's motion was filed late Wednesday, Sept. 19. It is accompanied by affidavits from one of Ventura's longtime friends, Bill DeWitt, and his wife, who were with the former governor that night at McP's Irish Pub, a popular watering hole among military personnel in Coronado, Calif.
DeWitt, who was a SEAL and also served as an Army Ranger and Green Beret, said that the crowd Kyle was with that night was "drinking heavily" (they were attending a wake for a fallen comrade) and that he'd even helped one of them "clean himself up in the bathroom after puking."
DeWitt said he saw Ventura talking to four SEALs on a patio, but didn't hear any loud voices "and did not see anyone punch or threaten anyone in any way."
"During the entire time we were at McP's, Jim did not get involved in any confrontation with any other SEALs," Dewitt's affidavit said. "I did not hear him say anything bad about the SEALs, the Teams or the United States, and he definitely did not get punched."
When Kyle moved to have two of Ventura's three claims dismissed, he included affidavits from six current or former SEAL team members who said the former governor was being a lout; one claimed to have heard him say that the special forces "deserve to lose a few" in Iraq and Afghanistan, the words that allegedly prompted Kyle to punch him.
Ventura "was being a jackass," the man wrote. "That's when Chris punched him. All of us wanted to. Chris was just the first one to pop him."
Not so, said DeWitt.
"I have known Jim ... long enough to say, with certainty, that he would never say that a SEAL or any other American serviceman deserves to die, or anything to that effect," he wrote. "Kyle's story about the things Jim supposedly said, and getting punched for saying them, is not true."
His wife, Charlene DeWitt, said in her affidavit that she was also present and that she overheard Ventura say, "I don't think the war is worth one SEAL dying for."
"I remember the statement because it surprised me," she wrote.
She said she saw no punch and never heard Ventura say anything derogatory about the SEALs or claimed they were murdering innocents.
"If I heard anything like that, I would have been very surprised, I would remember hearing it, and would have discussed it with my husband," she said in her affidavit.
The former governor's legal memo said that if there'd been a confrontation, "his friends and Teammates would have jumped to his defense -- but they didn't, because nothing happened."
One of Ventura's friends who was there, a Colorado veterinarian, "would certainly have known if Governor Ventura had been punched, because he was on the blood-thinning medication Coumadin at the time and there would have been immediate and massive bruising and swelling."
"There was not. Kyle's story about Governor Ventura is not true," the memo says.
In his affidavit, DeWitt explained why Kyle's claims about Ventura were defamatory.
"I don't know why Kyle would say the things about Jim that he did, but I do know that there is nothing worse than a former SEAL like Jim to be looked down upon by his brothers as a traitor, and there is no better way to destroy his reputation than to call him one," he wrote.