A number of combat-tested Navy SEALs say they learned something any statehouse reporter in Minnesota could have told them: When Jesse Ventura talks, the subject is usually Jesse Ventura.
But the special forces members -- some still on active duty -- are supporting a comrade's claim that during a wake for a fallen team member six years ago, the former governor popped off one too many times, prompting one of them to deck him in a California bar.
After that SEAL, Chris Kyle, described the alleged incident in his memoir about his military career as a sniper, Ventura sued him, claiming that the incident never happened and that Kyle defamed him.
Attorneys for Kyle are seeking to have most of Ventura's federal lawsuit thrown out. In a motion filed Tuesday, Aug. 28, they contend that the former governor's claims that Kyle misappropriated Ventura's likeness and unjustly enriched himself from the governor "fail as a matter of law."
U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle (no relation to the defendant) will hear arguments on the defense motion Oct. 10 in federal court in St. Paul.
The litigation is the latest involving Minnesota's colorful former governor. He was a member of the Navy's special forces (then known as Underwater Demolition Teams, or UDTs) who later became a professional wrestler and mayor of Brooklyn Park.
Ventura was elected governor in 1998 as a candidate for the Reform Party and served a single term. During those four years, he sparred frequently withthe press corps assigned to cover him, calling them "jackals" and at times refusing to talk to them.
Since leaving office, he has lectured at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, written books, hosted television shows and -- building on his longtime interest in the Kennedy assassination -- assumed the role of conspiracy theorist.
It was that latter pursuit that led to an incident in a bar in Coronado, Calif., in 2006, Kyle and his fellow SEALs contend. SEAL is an acronym for Sea, Air and Land.
Kyle, who was discharged in 2009 and now runs a Dallas company that trains security and law enforcement officers, wrote about the incident in "American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History," published in January.
Three-quarters of the way into the 400-page book, Kyle spends two pages retelling an incident he said happened at an Irish bar in which he and others were mourning Mikey Monsoor, who died Sept. 29, 2006, in Ramadi, Iraq, after throwing himself on a grenade that had been tossed into his bunker.
His action saved the lives of four other SEALs. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
Kyle wrote that when he and others got to the bar, among those there was "a celebrity I'll call Scruff Face."
Kyle never names Ventura but describes "Scruff Face" in ways Ventura contends a reader could easily surmise was him: he was an "older" UDT member who had served during Vietnam, he had become a "celebrity," he was disdainful of the government, he was moving to Mexico and he thought the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were a conspiracy.
He described "Scruff Face" as boorish and loud and "running his mouth about the war and everything and anything he could connect to it."
Kyle wrote that he and the others tolerated the man as long as they could, until Kyle finally told him to "cool it" because they were mourning a comrade.
" 'You deserve to lose a few,' he told me. Then he bowed up as if to belt me," the book goes on.
He claims "Scruff Face" took a swing at him.
"Being level-headed and calm can only last so long. I laid him out," Kyle wrote. "Tables flew. Stuff happened. Scruff Face ended up on the floor."
In radio and television appearances promoting his book, Kyle acknowledged that Ventura was "Scruff Face."
In his suit, Ventura claimed the incident never happened and that Ventura didn't say any of the things Kyle attributed to him. The suit contends "that the entire story about a confrontation with and physical assault and battery of Governor Ventura was false and defamatory."
But in a motion to dismiss two of Ventura's three claims of damage, Kyle's attorneys include sworn statements from six current or former SEAL team members who were there, along with the mothers of two dead SEALs who also were at the bar.
They describe a loutish and rude Ventura who seemed preoccupied with talking about himself. But of the lot, only one claims to have actually heard Ventura make the comment about "you deserve to lose a few" and saw Kyle punch the former governor.
That SEAL, Jeremiah Dinnell, said that Ventura "was being a jackass" and that his words went too far.
"That's when Chris punched him," Dinnell wrote. "All of us wanted to. Chris was just the first one to pop him."