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Former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura told CBS This Morning that his win in a defamation suit against the estate of a former Navy SEAL was about clearing his name and he didn't come out of it unharmed, in an interview that was broadcast live today, July 30, 2014 on the CBS Television Network.
Ventura sued over content in the book American Sniper, written by former sniper and Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. A jury awarded Ventura $1.8 million in damages, though he's been criticized for pursuing the case against Kyle's widow, Taya, and his two children. Chris Kyle was shot dead in 2013.
"Don't think I come out of this unscathed. All I wanted to do was clear my name, and it has nothing to do with a widow or anything like that," Ventura told co-hosts Charlie Rose, Norah O'Donnell and Gayle King. "It was me against an insurance company."
Ventura also said that while he has no plans to reach out to Taya Kyle, he did say he planned to visit the book's publisher, HarperCollins. "They published the book and did no due diligence to find out if the story was true," he said.
A transcript of the interview is below.
ROSE: Good morning, Governor. So your attorney said that there are no winners here, and the question then is, why pursue this lawsuit?
VENTURA: You pursue a lawsuit for the truth. I would have been a big-time loser had I not pursued the lawsuit, because the lawsuit, the whole story was fabricated. I was accused of treason, which in the military is the death penalty. I would think that would be enough to inspire anyone to seek the truth, and the bottom line is it never happened, and that's all we were seeking. Let's be clear on something. Teya Kyle had all of her attorney fees paid by insurance. I did not. I incurred two and a half years of lawyer fees that I have to pay to clear my name, and she had insurance paying everything for her.
ROSE: Some suggest, Jesse, that you may have damaged your reputation by pursuing a lawsuit against the widow.
VENTURA: Well, if seeking the truth damages you, then we live in a pretty sorry world, don't we? When the truth can hurt you. And the truth came out, it never occurred, and that's all I sought from it. I'm already damaged. I can't go to a SEAL reunion anymore. That was the one place that I always felt safe. I can't go there anymore. I would be looking over my shoulder now wondering who's going to come after me next. And so, don't think I come out of this unscathed. All I wanted to do was clear my name, and it has nothing to do with a widow or anything like that. It was me against an insurance company.
KING: Mrs. Kyle also says that the truth is the truth. She does not think you're telling the truth. She says she is never out of this fight. Do you have any plans to reach out to her?
VENTURA: No, I don't. You're not supposed to talk to the other side. And you know, she can say what she wants. There wasn't one witness that saw me get hit.
KING: Does it bother you that you might have won the case but you're certainly getting hammered in the court of public opinion?
VENTURA: I'm not getting hammered in the court of public opinion. People are walking up to me every day and shaking my hand. How am I getting hammered in the court of public opinion? Because I sought the truth? The truth gets you hammered in the court of public opinion? Well if the truth does that, I'll happily accept it, because I believe in the truth and I still do today.
O'DONNELL: Chris Kyle was a Navy SEAL.
VENTURA: So was I.
O'DONNELL: Yes. He served his country. His wife is a widow. They have two children, a nine-year-old and a seven-year-old. The estate has to pay out a million dollars in fees. What are you going to do with the money?
VENTURA: Pay my lawyers. Again, like I said, I didn't have an insurance company paying the freight for me. I had to pay my own. You know, it's unfortunate, but the jury rendered that decision. Jesse Ventura did not render how and why the money would be paid. That came from a jury, not from me. So if you're going to question the money, question the jury. They made that decision. Gov. Jesse Ventura did not.
O'DONNELL: You were in a bar with Chris Kyle, and you two did get in an argument, correct?
VENTURA: No, we did not. No, we did not. I have no recollection of Chris Kyle until June of 2012 at the first preliminary settlement hearing. Did I meet him? Probably. I meet 40 or 50 people a night out there. We had pictures. I posed for pictures. There's no hostility whatsoever in any of the photos that were submitted in court, as well as we have pictures the next day of me. I'm on blood thinners. If I get hit, I bleed. I can't even shave with a bladed razor. I have to use electric. You're telling me if this guy - and I'm 255 pounds - if he would have hit me, there wouldn't have been a mark on me and knocked me down? I think so.
ROSE: Why do you think Chris Kyle said this?
VENTURA: Well, it sells. It's called a sea story. In the Navy it happens all the time. One sailor lies to another sailor, that second sailor then tells the story three more times, and all of the sudden, the sea story becomes the truth. They were drunk, they were drinking heavily, and it was just a story that happened in another bar and erupted six years later.
KING: Do you plan to take further action? That's the last question.
VENTURA: Well, I plan to visit HarperCollins. They published the book and did no due diligence to find out if the story was true.
O'DONNELL: Gov. Jesse Ventura, thank you so much.
Watch clip below