Jesse Ventura's Long Feud With American Sniper Chris Kyle Explained

Wrestling fans know former pro wrestler Jesse "The Body" Ventura best for his time as a color commentator in WWE and WCW, but much of the general public may know the former Minnesota governor best for his long legal battle against late United States Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle. However, many not may know the full story of the legal battle between Ventura and Kyle.


It all kicked off around the 2012 press tour for Kyle's memoir, "American Sniper." On a radio interview, Kyle alleged an altercation took place between him and Ventura six years prior at a wake for a fallen Navy SEAL. According to Kyle, he punched a man who was voicing opposition to the Iraq War. Kyle said he heard the man saying that the Navy SEALS "deserved to lose some" in the Iraq War. In the interview, Kyle clarified that the man was none other than Ventura.

Although opposition to the Iraq War isn't out of character for Ventura, he said that none of the events Kyle discussed actually took place. Ventura requested that Kyle retract his statements, but Kyle refused. That prompted Ventura to sue Kyle for defamation in federal court. The early days of the suit saw conflicting motions filed by both men, both of which hinged on separate eyewitness accounts backing up either Kyle or Ventura's version of events. Before the conflict could reach the courtroom, Kyle was murdered in an unrelated incident. The lawsuit then became Ventura suing Kyle's estate, a move that drew the ire of many veterans. 


In July 2014 the trial took place over the course of three weeks in St. Paul, Minn. The jury ultimately split 8-2 in favor of Ventura, awarding him $500,000 for defamation and an additional $1.34 million for "unjust enrichment." The decision was upheld by Judge Richard Kyler in a district court the next month

Jesse Ventura's $1.8 Million Verdict Overturned

Another four months later, Ventura also opted to sue HarperCollins, the publisher of "American Sniper," over the same statements he had sued Kyle over.

Things took a turn, however, when Kyle's estate appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals. A little over a year after the St. Paul trial, oral arguments were finally heard. Eight months later in June 2016, the court handed down their decision: the unjust-enrichment judgment was vacated, and the defamation judgment would have a new trial. Ventura's $1.8 million decision was thrown out.


Before a new trial could take place, Ventura tried to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. Ultimately, in January 2017, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

In the end, Ventura and HarperCollins settled out of court on currently unknown terms. When asked about how much the settlement was for, Ventura said, "All I'll say is my settlement is now in the bank. That speaks and tells you everything else about it."

After the settlement, Ventura dropped the suit against HarperCollins and Kyle's estate.