By Steve Karnowsk
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — American Sniper is tops at the box office but don’t expect to see former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura lining up at a theater for it.
Ventura, a former Navy SEAL, won $1.8 million in a defamation lawsuit last year against the estate of the late Chris Kyle, the SEAL protagonist of the movie, which has sparked debate over whether snipers should be considered heroes. Ventura said Wednesday he won’t see the film partly because Kyle is no hero to him.
"A hero must be honorable, must have honor. And you can’t have honor if you’re a liar. There is no honor in lying," Ventura told The Associated Press from his winter home in Baja California, Mexico. He also noted that the movie isn’t playing there.
Ventura also dismissed the movie as propaganda because it conveys the false idea that Iraq had something to do with the 9/11 attacks. “It’s as authentic as Dirty Harry,” he said, referring to fictional movie series starring Clint Eastwood, the director of American Sniper.
Ventura testified Kyle fabricated a subchapter in his American Sniper book in which Kyle claimed he punched out a man, whom he later identified as Ventura, at a California bar in 2006 for allegedly saying the SEALs “deserve to lose a few” in Iraq. Ventura said it never happened.
The jury gave Ventura the legal vindication he craved. Publisher HarperCollins removed the passage from the best-seller, and it gets no mention in the movie. Kyle’s estate has appealed. Ventura’s separate lawsuit against HarperCollins remains pending.
The former wrestler is now working on the second season of his online-only political talk show Off the Grid at Ora.tv, which he records in Mexico, where he lives in a solar-powered home with a satellite Internet connection.
Ed Huddleston, a lawyer for Kyle’s widow, Taya Kyle, said they won’t comment on Ventura’s remarks because the lawsuit is on appeal.
Kyle was killed in 2013 on a shooting range. The former Marine charged in his death goes on trial in Texas next month.
The American Sniper film has been a sensation at the box office and has earned more than $200 million domestically since it was released last month on Christmas day.
Photo: AP Photo/The Star Tribune, Elizabeth Flores