Jesse Ventura, the wrestler, politician, and television host won $1.8 million Tuesday in a defamation lawsuit against the estate of Chris Kyle for including an inflammatory anecdote in his book “American Sniper,” prompting publisher HarperCollins to announce it will remove the passage from the book.
A federal jury ruled that Kyle, a former Navy SEAL who was shot dead at a Texas gun range last year, defamed Ventura for including a passage in his bestselling autobiography that described a man saying the Navy SEALs “deserve to lose a few.” In interviews at the time of the book’s release, Kyle identified the man as Ventura.
Ventura filed a lawsuit against Kyle, testifying that Kyle fabricated the passage, which included a description of Kyle punching Ventura. The jury awarded Venture $1.3 million for unjust enrichment and $500,000 in damages for defamation, CBS reports.
“I’m relieved. I feel bad that it had to happen in the first place,” Ventura said in an interview with Russia Today on Tuesday. Ventura had long said he was not interested in the money, but rather an apology from Kyle. Kyle died in Feb. 2013, allegedly killed by a former Marine he was helping overcome PTSD.
“I was really backed into a corner,” Ventura said, who served in the Navy during the Vietnam War. “I was left with no choice but to continue the litigation to clear my name, because the story is fabricated. It never occurred, and it accuses me of committing treason. Treason against my own. I am part of the UDT (underwater demolition team) SEAL Community. These are my brothers. We’re a fraternity.”
Legal experts had said that Ventura’s case had to meet a high bar and prove both that Kyle intended “actual malice” toward Ventura, and that he knew that he wrote was untrue.
Ventura was a professional wrestler for much of his career and acted in the 1987 movie Predator, in which he became famous for uttering the line “I ain’t got time to bleed!” the New York Times reports. He served as governor of Minnesota from 1999 to 2003.
Ventura testified that while he was in the bar on the night Kyle described in his book, he never said the SEALs deserved “to lose a few.” He also denied that Kyle punched him. Ventura’s lawyer said the testimony from defense witnesses was so inconsistent that they couldn’t be trusted.
Publisher HarperCollins said Wednesday it will remove the passage from “American Sniper” that sparked the lawsuit, the Associated Press reports. The book sold 1.5 million copies.