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James George Janos (July 15, 1951), better known as Jesse Ventura, is an American statesman, actor, author, and former professional wrestler who served as the 38th Governor of Minnesota from 1999 to 2003.
Ventura served as a Navy UDT during the Vietnam War. He later embarked on an 11-year professional wrestling career from 1975 to 1986, taking up the stage name Jesse "The Body" Ventura. He had a long tenure in the World Wrestling Federation as a performer and color commentator, and was inducted into the company's Hall of Fame in 2004. After leaving wrestling Ventura began a successful film career, appearing in films such as 1987's Predator.
Ventura first entered politics as Mayor of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota from 1991 to 1995. He ran as the Reform Party candidate in the Minnesota gubernatorial election of 1998, running a campaign centered on grassroots events and unusual ads that implored citizens not to "vote for politics as usual". The campaign was successful, and Ventura served from January 4, 1999, to January 6, 2003, without running for a second term.
Ventura was born James George Janos on July 15, 1951 in Minneapolis, the son of Bernice Martha (née Lenz) and George William Janos, both of whom were World War II veterans. Ventura has an older brother who served in Vietnam. His father's parents were from what is now Slovakia, and his mother was of German descent. Ventura has described himself as Slovak. Ventura was raised a Lutheran. Ventura (then still using his legal name of Janos) attended the now-closed Cooper Elementary School and graduated from Minneapolis' Roosevelt High School in 1969.
From September 11, 1969, to September 10, 1975, during the Vietnam War era, Ventura served in the United States Navy. Ventura graduated with BUD/S class 58 in December 1970 and was part of Underwater Demolition Team 12 and later as a reservist with SEAL Team 1.
Ventura has frequently referred to his military career in public statements and debates. He was criticized by hunters and conservationists for stating in an interview with the Minneapolis StarTribune in April 2001, "Until you have hunted men, you haven't hunted yet."
In January 2002, Ventura, who had never specifically claimed to have fought in Vietnam, disclosed for the first time that he did not see combat. He did not receive the Combat Action Ribbon, which was awarded to those involved in a firefight or who went on clandestine or special operations where the risk of enemy fire was great or expected. However, Ventura, who was stationed at Subic Bay in the Philippines, was awarded the Vietnam Service Medal, which was given to military personnel who took part in the contributions to the war effort in Vietnam.
Near the end of his service in the Navy Ventura began to spend time with the "Dago" chapter of the outlaw motorcycle club the Mongols, in San Diego. He would ride onto Naval Base Coronado on his Harley-Davidson wearing his Mongol colors. According to Ventura he was a full-patch member of the club and even third in command of his chapter. While the club may have been involved in some criminal activity Ventura avoided any problems with the authorities.
In the fall of 1974, Ventura left the bike club to return to Minnesota. Shortly after his leaving, the Mongols entered into open warfare with their rivals the Hells Angels.
In Minnesota Ventura attended North Hennepin Community College in the mid-1970s. At the same time, he began weightlifting and wrestling. He was a bodyguard for The Rolling Stones for a short time before he ventured into professional wrestling and changed his name.
Professional wrestling career
He created the stage name Jesse "The Body" Ventura to go with the persona of a bully-ish beach bodybuilder, picking the name "Ventura" from a map as part of his "bleach blond from California" character. Ventura also picked the name Jesse, claiming he liked the name. As a wrestler, Ventura performed as a villain and often used the motto "Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat!" Much of his flamboyant persona was adapted from "Superstar" Billy Graham, a charismatic and popular performer during the 1970s and '80s. Years later, as a broadcaster, Ventura made a running joke out of it claiming that Graham stole all of his ring attire ideas from him.
Singles and tag team success
In 1975, Ventura made his debut in the Central States territory, before moving to the Pacific Northwest, where he wrestled for promoter Don Owen as Jesse "The Great" Ventura. Sometime later, he adopted the more permanent nickname, "The Body". During his stay in Portland, Oregon, he had notable feuds with Dutch Savage and Jimmy Snuka and won the Pacific Northwest Wrestling title twice (once from each wrestler), and the tag team title five times (twice each with Bull Ramos and "Playboy" Buddy Rose, and once with Jerry Oates). He later moved to his hometown promotion, the American Wrestling Association in Minnesota, and began teaming with Adrian Adonis as the "East-West Connection" in 1979. The duo won the promotion's World Tag Team Championship on July 20, 1980 on a forfeit when Verne Gagne, one-half of the tag team champions along with Mad Dog Vachon, failed to show up for a title defense in Denver, Colorado. The duo held the belts for nearly a year, losing to "The High Flyers" (Greg Gagne and Jim Brunzell).
Retirement and commentary
Shortly after losing the belts, the duo moved on to the World Wrestling Federation, where they were managed by "Classy" Freddie Blassie. Although the duo was unable to capture the World Tag Team Championship, both Adonis and Ventura became singles title contenders, each earning several title shots at World Heavyweight Champion Bob Backlund.
Ventura continued to wrestle until September 1984, when blood clots in his lungs ended his in-ring career. Ventura claimed the blood clots were a result of his exposure to Agent Orange during his time in Vietnam. Ventura did return to the ring in 1985 forming a tag-team with "Macho Man" Randy Savage & Savage's manager Miss Elizabeth. Often after their televised matches Ventura would taunt and challenge fellow commentator Bruno Sammartino but nothing ever came of this. He also participated in a six-man tag team match in December 1985 as he, Roddy Piper, and "Cowboy" Bob Orton defeated Hillbilly Jim, Uncle Elmer, and Cousin Luke in a match which was broadcast on Saturday Night's Main Event. After a failed comeback bid, he began to do color commentary on television for All-Star Wrestling (replacing Angelo Mosca) and later Superstars of Wrestling (initially alongside Vince McMahon and Sammartino, and with McMahon after Sammartino's departure from the WWF in 1988), hosted his own talk segment on the WWF's Superstars of Wrestling called "The Body Shop", and did color commentary on radio for a few National Football League teams (among them, the Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers). Ventura most notably co-hosted Saturday Night's Main Event with Vince McMahon and the first six WrestleManias (1985–1990) and most of the WWF's pay-per-views at the time with Gorilla Monsoon (the lone exception for Ventura being the first SummerSlam, in which Ventura served as the guest referee during the main event). Following a dispute with Vince McMahon over the use of his image for promoting a Sega product, McMahon—who had a contract with rival company Nintendo at the time—released Ventura from the company in August 1990.
In February 1992 at SuperBrawl II, Ventura joined World Championship Wrestling as a commentator. His professional wrestling commentary style was an extension of his wrestling persona, as he was partial to the villains, which was something new and different at the time, but would still occasionally give credit where it was due, praising the athleticism of Dynamite Kid and Randy Savage (who was championed by Ventura for years, even when he was a fan favorite). The lone exception to this rule was the WrestleMania VI match between Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior. Since they were both crowd favorites, Ventura took a neutral position in his commentary; even praising Hogan's display of sportsmanship at the end of the match when he handed over the WWF Championship to the Warrior after he lost the title. The praise of Hogan's action was unusual for Ventura because he regularly rooted against Hogan during his matches. Hogan and Ventura were, at one point, close friends. Ventura, however, abruptly ended the friendship after he discovered, during his lawsuit against Vince McMahon, that Hogan was the one who had told Vince about Ventura's attempt to form a labor union in 1984. Ventura was released by WCW President Eric Bischoff for allegedly falling asleep during a WCW Worldwide TV taping at Disney MGM Studios in July 1994, though its been speculated the move may have had more to do with Hulk Hogan's arrival shortly before.
In 1987, while negotiating his contract as a WWF commentator, Ventura waived his rights to royalties on videotape sales when he was falsely told that only feature performers received such royalties. In 1991, having discovered that other non-feature performers received royalties, Ventura brought an action for fraud, misappropriation of publicity rights, and quantum meruit in Minnesota state court against Titan Sports. Titan removed the case to federal court, and Ventura won an $801,333 jury verdict on the last claim. The judgment was affirmed on appeal, and the case, 65 F.3d 725 (8th Cir.1995), is an important result in the law of restitution.
Return to the World Wrestling Federation / Entertainment
In mid-1999, Ventura reappeared on WWF television during his term as Governor of Minnesota, acting as the special guest referee for main event of SummerSlam held in Minneapolis. Ventura would continue his relationship with the WWF by performing commentary for Vince McMahon's short-lived XFL. On the March 20, 2003 episode of SmackDown!, Ventura appeared in a taped interview to talk about the match between McMahon and Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania XIX. Less than a year later, he would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame on March 13, 2004 and the following night at WrestleMania XX, he approached the ring to interview Donald Trump, who had a front row seat at the event. Trump affirmed that Ventura would receive his moral and financial support were he to ever reenter the world of politics. Alluding to the 2008 election, Ventura boldly announced that "In 2008, maybe we oughta put a wrestler in the White House". On the June 11, 2007 episode of Raw, Ventura appeared to give comments about Vince McMahon.
Ventura was guest host on the November 23, 2009 episode of Raw during which he retained his villainous persona by siding with the number one contender, Sheamus over WWE Champion John Cena. This happened while he confronted Cena about how it was unfair that Cena always got a title shot in the WWE while Ventura didn't during his WWE career. After that Sheamus attacked Cena and put him through a table. Ventura then made the match a Table match at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs. During the show, for the first time in nearly 20 years, Vince McMahon joined Ventura at ringside to provide match commentary together.
Mayor of Brooklyn Park
Following his departure from the WWF, Ventura took advice from a former high school teacher and ran for mayor of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota in 1990. Ventura defeated the city's 25-year incumbent mayor and served from 1991 to 1995.
Governor of MinnesotaVentura ran for Governor of Minnesota in 1998 as the nominee for the Reform Party of Minnesota (he later joined the Independence Party of Minnesota when the Reform Party broke from its association with the Reform Party of the United States of America). His campaign consisted of a combination of aggressive grassroots events and original television spots, designed by quirky adman Bill Hillsman, using the phrase "Don't vote for politics as usual." He spent considerably less than his opponents (about $300,000) and was a pioneer in his using the Internet as a medium of reaching out to voters in a political campaign.
He won the election in November 1998, narrowly (and unexpectedly) defeating the major-party candidates, St. Paul mayor Norm Coleman (Republican) and Minnesota Attorney General Hubert H. "Skip" Humphrey III (Democratic-Farmer-Labor). After his victory, bumper stickers and T-shirts bearing the slogan "My governor can beat up your governor" appeared in Minnesota. The nickname "Jesse 'The Mind (from a last-minute Hillsman ad featuring Ventura posing as Rodin's Thinker) began to resurface sarcastically in reference to his frequently controversial remarks. Ventura's old stage name "Jesse 'The Body (sometimes adapted to "Jesse 'The Governing Body) also continued to appear with some regularity.
After a trade mission to China in 2002, he announced that he would not run for a second term. He accused the media of hounding him and his family for personal behavior and belief while neglecting coverage of important policy issues. Ventura later told a reporter for The Boston Globe that he would have run for a second term if he had been single, citing the media's effect on his family life.
Governor Ventura sparked media criticism when, nearing the end of his term, he suggested that he might resign from office early to allow his lieutenant governor, Mae Schunk, an opportunity to serve as governor. He further stated that he wanted her to be the state's first female governor and have her portrait painted and hung in the Capitol along with the other governors. Ventura quickly retreated from the comments, saying he was just floating an idea.
As Minnesota Governor, Ventura succeeded in several initiatives. One of the most notable was the rebate on sales tax. In each year of his administration, Minnesotans received a tax-free check in the late summer. The state was running a budget surplus at the time, and Ventura believed that the money should be returned to the public. In political debates, he often admitted that he had not formed an opinion on certain policy questions. Ventura frequently described himself as "fiscally conservative and socially liberal." He selected teacher Mae Schunk as his running mate.
Later, he came to support a unicameral (one-house) legislature, property tax reform, gay rights, and abortion rights. In an interview on The Howard Stern Show, he affirmed his support of gay rights, including gay marriage and gays in the military, humorously stating he would've gladly served alongside homosexuals when he was in the Navy as they would've provided less competition for women. While funding public school education generously, he opposed the teachers' union, and did not have a high regard for the public funding of higher education institutions. Additionally, Ventura supported the use of medicinal marijuana, advocated a higher role for third parties in national politics, and favored the concept of instant-runoff voting. He also opposed the death penalty.
Ventura was elected on a Reform party ticket, but he never received support from Ross Perot's Texas faction. When the Reform party was taken over by Pat Buchanan supporters before the presidential elections of 2000, Ventura left the party in February 2000, referring to it as "hopelessly dysfunctional". However, he maintained close ties to the Independence Party of Minnesota, which also broke from the Reform party around the same time.
Despite being a supporter of third parties in the past, Ventura has since declared he no longer supports the third party movement and advocates that all political parties, including third parties, be abolished. Feeling that the two-party system has corrupted the government, Ventura has expressed concern that if a third party became as successful as the Republicans and Democrats, it "will likewise have to corrupt itself. If you already have a two-headed monster, why would you need three?"
Lacking a party base in the Minnesota House and Senate, Ventura's policy ambitions had little chance of being introduced as bills. Initially, the residents of Minnesota feared Ventura's vetoes would be overturned. He vetoed 45 bills in his first year, and only three of those vetoes were overridden. The reputation for having his vetoes overridden comes from his fourth and final year, where six of his nine vetoes were overturned. He vetoed a bill to require Recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools.
During the first part of his administration, Ventura strongly advocated for land-use reform and substantial mass transit improvements, such as light rail. He made the light rail project a priority, obtaining additional funding from the Minnesota state legislature to keep the project moving. The Hiawatha Line was completed in 2004.
During another trade mission to Cuba in the summer of 2002, he denounced the economic sanctions of the US against Cuba, stating that the sanctions affected the Cuban public more than it did its government.
Ventura greatly disapproved of some of the actions that took place at the 2002 memorial for Senator Paul Wellstone, his family, and others who died in a plane crash on October 25, 2002. Ventura said, "I feel used. I feel violated and duped over the fact that the memorial ceremony turned into a political rally". He left halfway through the controversial speech made by Wellstone's best friend, Rick Kahn. Ventura had initially planned to appoint a Democrat to Wellstone's seat, but he instead appointed Dean Barkley to represent Minnesota in the Senate until Wellstone's term expired in January 2003.
After the legislature refused to increase spending for security, Ventura attracted criticism when he decided not to live in the governor's mansion during his tenure, choosing instead to shut it down and stay at his home in Maple Grove. Critics pointed to the loss of jobs for several working-class people at the mansion and the extra cost of reopening the mansion later.
In 1999, a group of disgruntled citizens petitioned to recall Governor Ventura, alleging, among other things, that "the use of state security personnel to protect the governor on a book promotion tour constituted illegal use of state property for personal gain." The petition was denied.
During his tenure as Governor, Ventura drew frequent fire from the press in the Twin Cities. He referred to reporters as "media jackals," a term that even appeared on the press passes required to enter the governor's press area. Shortly after Ventura's election as governor, author and humorist Garrison Keillor wrote a satirical book about the event, spoofing Ventura as "Jimmy (Big Boy) Valente," a self-aggrandizing former "Navy W.A.L.R.U.S. (Water Air Land Rising Up Suddenly)" turned professional wrestler turned politician. Initially, Ventura responded angrily to the satire, but later, in a conciliatory vein, said that Keillor "makes Minnesota proud". During his term, Ventura appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman, in which he responded controversially to the following question: "So which is the better city of the Twin Cities, Minneapolis or St. Paul?". Ventura responded, "Minneapolis. Those streets in St. Paul must have been designed by drunken Irishmen". He later apologized for the remark, adding that it was not intended to be taken seriously.
Post-Gubernatorial Political Ambitions
While Ventura has not held public office since the end of his term as governor in 2003, he has remained politically active and has occasionally stated intentions of running again for political office. In an interview on CNN's The Situation Room on April 7, 2008, Ventura hinted that he was considering entering the race for the United States Senate seat then held by Norm Coleman, his Republican opponent in the 1998 Gubernatorial race. A poll commissioned by Twin Cities station Fox 9 put him at 24 percent, behind Al Franken at 32 percent and Norm Coleman at 39 percent in a hypothetical three-way race. However, Ventura announced on Larry King Live on July 14, 2008 that he would not run; Ventura's decision not to join the race was partly rooted from a fear of a potential lack of privacy for his family, a concern that contributed to his refusal to seek a second term as governor. Al Franken ended up winning the election as a candidate for the Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party.
In his 1999 autobiography I Ain't Got Time to Bleed, Ventura stated he did not plan on running for the presidency but did not rule out such an idea. He spoke at Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul's "Rally for the Republic", organized by the Campaign for Liberty, on September 2, 2008. At the event, Ventura implied a possible future run at the U.S. Presidency. At the end of his speech, Ventura stated before a live audience that if America proves itself worthy, then "in 2012 we'll give them a race they'll never forget!" In 2011, Ventura expressed interest in running with Ron Paul for the 2012 presidential elections if the latter decided to run as an independent. On November 4, 2011, Ventura said at a press conference about the dismissal of his court case against the Transportation Security Administration for what he claims are illegal searches of air travelers, that he is "thinking about" running for President. There had been reports that officials from the Libertarian Party have tried to persuade Ventura to run for the presidency on a Libertarian ticket although the party chairman Mark Hinkle stated, "Jesse is more interested in 2016 than he is in 2012. But I think he’s serious. If Ron Paul ran as a Libertarian, I think he definitely would be interested in running as a vice presidential candidate. He’s thinking, ‘If I run as the vice presidential candidate under Ron Paul in 2012, I could run as a presidential candidate in 2016."
David Gewirtz of ZDNet wrote that he thinks Ventura has a chance of winning, if he declares his intention now (November 2011) and runs a serious campaign, but that it would be a long shot.
On December 29, 2011, Ventura announced his support for Ron Paul on the Alex Jones Show for the 2012 Presidential Election as "the only anti-war candidate."
Ventura acted in the 1987 movie Predator, whose cast included future California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and future Kentucky Gubernatorial candidate Sonny Landham. Ventura became close friends with Schwarzenegger during the production of Predator. He appeared in two episodes of Zorro filmed in Madrid, Spain, in 1991. He had a starring role in the 1990 sci-fi movie Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe, and supporting roles in The Running Man, Thunderground, Demolition Man, Repossessed, Ricochet, The Master of Disguise (in which he steals the Liberty Bell), and Batman & Robin – the first two and last of these also starring Schwarzenegger. Ventura also made a cameo appearance in Major League II, as "White Lightning". He also appeared as a self-help guru (voice only) in The Ringer trying to turn Johnny Knoxville into a more confident worker. Ventura also had a cameo in The X-Files episode "Jose Chung's From Outer Space" as a Man in Black alongside fellow 'MiB' Alex Trebek. In 2008, Ventura filmed the independent comedy Woodshop, starring as a high school shop teacher named Mr. Madson. The film was released September 7, 2010.
In 1989 Ventura co-hosted the four episodes of the DiC Entertainment children's program Record Breakers along with Gary Apple. In 1991, the pilot episode for "Tag Team", a television program about two ex-professional wrestlers turned police officers, starred Ventura and "Rowdy" Roddy Piper.
Between 1995 and his run for governor in 1998, Ventura had radio call-in shows on (KFAN 1130) and (KSTP 1500) in Minneapolis – Saint Paul. Jesse had a brief role on the television soap opera The Young and the Restless in 1999.
Ventura has been criticized for privately profiting from his heightened popularity. He was hired as a television analyst for the failed XFL football enterprise, served as a referee at a World Wrestling Federation match, and published several books during his tenure as governor. On his weekly radio show, he often criticized the media for focusing on these deals rather than on his policy proposals.
Ventura has been portrayed frequently by comedian James Adomian since 2009 on the popular Earwolf podcasts Comedy Bang Bang and Sklarbro Country, with the "Ventura" character uncovering a wide range of absurd conspiracies. Adomian also played Ventura in a YouTube parody of Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura, investigating the secret truth behind professional wrestling.
Ventura was succeeded in his office by Republican Tim Pawlenty. He began a cable television show in October 2003, on MSNBC called Jesse Ventura's America. The show was broadcast once a week, on Saturdays, unlike many MSNBC shows which are on five nights a week (this show was originally planned for five nights a week as well, but MSNBC executives changed their minds). At the time of its airing, Jesse Ventura's America was the only national television show filmed in Minnesota. Among his guests were Charles Barkley, Gray Davis, Arianna Huffington, Rob Kampia, and Kathy McKee. However, the show was short-lived and ended on December 26, 2003, only a couple of months after the show began. Ventura later claimed that the show was cancelled because of his opposition to the Iraq War.
In 2004, Harvard graduate student and fellow Navy veteran Christopher Mora promoted the idea that the academic establishment had failed to reach out to citizens experienced in public service, but who did not fit the traditional idea of a politician. He successfully lobbied for the selection of Ventura, who started teaching a study group at Harvard University for the Spring 2004 semester as a visiting fellow at the Kennedy School of Government's Institute of Politics (IOP). His 90-minute study group focused on third party politics, campaign finance, the war on drugs, and other relevant political issues. Ventura scheduled multiple famous friends to appear for his seminars including Dean Barkley and Richard Marcinko.
On October 22, 2004, with Ventura by his side, former Maine Governor Angus King endorsed John Kerry for President at the Minnesota state capitol building. Ventura did not speak at the press conference. When prodded for a statement, Governor King responded, "He plans to vote for John Kerry, but he doesn't want to make a statement and subject himself to the tender mercies of the Minnesota press".
In November 2004, an advertisement began airing in California featuring Ventura. In it, Ventura voices his opposition to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's policies regarding Native American casinos. Ventura served as an advisory board member for a group called Operation Truth, a non-profit organization] set up "to give voice to troops who served in Iraq." “The current use of the National Guard is wrong....These are men who did not sign up to go occupy foreign nations”. Ventura also became critical of the War in Iraq, arguing that Iraq had no involvement in the 9/11 attacks. On The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, Ventura compared the 2003 invasion of Iraq to a scenario of invading Korea in response to the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan.
In August 2005, Ventura became the spokesperson for BetUS, an online Sportsbook. In 2005, Ventura repeatedly discussed leaving the United States. In September 2005, Ventura announced on The Mike Malloy Show that he was leaving the U.S. and planned to "have an adventure". In late October 2005, he went on The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch and reiterated that he was leaving the U.S. and moving to Mexico due to, among other things, censorship.
In September 2006, Ventura endorsed and campaigned with independent Texas gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman], and Independence Party of Minnesota's gubernatorial candidate Peter Hutchinson and Team Minnesota.
In April 2008, a book authored by Ventura, titled Don't Start the Revolution Without Me, was released. In it, Ventura describes a hypothetical campaign in which he is a candidate for President of the United States in 2008, running as an independent. In an interview with the Associated Press at the time of the book's release, however, Ventura denied any plans for a presidential bid, stating that the scenario is only imaginary and not indicative of a "secret plan to run". On MinnPost.com, Ventura's agent, Steve Schwartz, describes the book thus: "[Ventura is revealing] why he left politics and discussing the disastrous war in Iraq, why he sees our two-party system as corrupt, and what Fidel Castro told him about who was really behind the assassination of President Kennedy."
Bush/Cheney administration and torture
In a May 11, 2009 interview with Larry King, Ventura twice stated that George W. Bush was the worst president of his lifetime, adding "President Obama inherited something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. You know? Two wars, an economy that's borderline depression." On the issue of waterboarding, Ventura added:
Ventura then stated that he had no respect for Dick Cheney because he is "a guy who got five deferments from the Vietnam War. Clearly, he's a coward. He wouldn't go when it was his time to go. And now he is a chickenhawk. Now he is this big tough guy who wants this hardcore policy. And he's the guy that sanctioned all this torture by calling it 'enhanced interrogation'." Ventura also expressed interest in being appointed ambassador to Cuba should U.S. relations with Cuba continue to improve. On a May 18, 2009 appearance on The View, Ventura asked Elisabeth Hasselbeck if waterboarding is acceptable, why were the Oklahoma City bombers, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, not waterboarded. "We only seem to waterboard Muslims." Comparing the waterboarding of detainees to the North Vietnamese torture of American P.O.W.s, Ventura asserted, "We created our own Hanoi Hilton in Guantánamo. That's our Hanoi Hilton." "'Enhanced interrogation' is Dick Cheney changing a word. Dick Cheney comes up with a new word to cover his ass." On May 20, 2009, Ventura appeared on Fox & Friends. When Brian Kilmeade told Ventura that he would stop supporting waterboarding when "they're dead", Ventura responded, "Really? Have you enlisted? Have you enlisted or are you just talking?... Go walk the walk, don't talk the talk."
Questions regarding 9/11
In April and May 2008, Jesse Ventura, in several radio interviews for his new book, Don't Start the Revolution Without Me, expressed concerns about what he described as some of the unanswered questions of the September 11 attacks. His remarks about the possibility that the World Trade Center was demolished with explosives were also repeated in newspaper and television stories following some of the interviews.
Ventura was interviewed on the Alex Jones radio show on April 2, 2008 where he said that he felt that many unanswered questions remain, and he believes that World Trade Center Building 7, which was not struck by a plane, collapsed on the afternoon of 9/11 in a manner which resembled a controlled demolition Ventura stated:
He also states the Twin Towers appeared to be pulverized to dust, that they fell at virtually free-fall speed, and that no other massive steel-framed buildings had ever collapsed in this manner due to fire before.
On May 18, 2009, when asked by Sean Hannity of Fox News, how George W. Bush could have avoided the attacks of September 11, 2001, Ventura answered, "Well, you pay attention to memos on August 6th that tell you exactly what bin Laden's gonna do."
Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura
In August 2009, it was announced that Ventura would host TruTV's new show Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura. "Ventura will hunt down answers, plunging viewers into a world of secret meetings, midnight surveillance, shifty characters and dark forces," truTV said in a statement. On the program, which debuted on December 2, 2009, Ventura travels the country, investigating cases and getting input from believers and skeptics before passing judgment on a theory's validity. According to TruTV, the first episode drew 1.6 million viewers, a record for a new series on the network.
The second season of the series debuted in October 2010 and aired 8 episodes through December 2010. A third season is in the process of being made and will air sometime in 2012.
American Conspiracies and 63 Documents the Government Doesn't Want You to Read
American Conspiracies is a book Ventura wrote with Dick Russell, published by Skyhorse Publishing in 2010 which discusses conspiracy theories related to several notable events in United States history.
63 Documents the Government Doesn't Want You to Read was also written by Ventura with Dick Russell and published in 2011. The book describes documents that Ventura claims the government does not want the public to be informed of, although he stated the documents were not stolen and were only on the public domain.
Lawsuit Against the TSA
In January 2011, Jesse Ventura filed a lawsuit against the Transportation Security Administration for being subject to controversial pat-downs. Ventura has asserted that these pat-downs violate citizens' Fourth Amendment rights. Ventura's attorney has claimed that while he is not seeking any monetary compensation, Ventura wants an acknowledgment from the court that his rights were violated and that the TSA halt future pat-downs on him. Ventura stated that as a former politician and a military veteran and posing no threat, it is inappropriate for him to be subject to pat-downs. Since filing the lawsuit, Ventura has been flying privately.
The lawsuit was dismissed in November 2011 under the ruling that Ventura should have filed the lawsuit in the Court of Appeals. In related comments to the media following the lawsuit's dismissal, Ventura stated he believed America had become "fascist" for the secret ruling and subsequent mainstream media blackout. The former Governor said he would seek dual citizenship in both the United States and Mexico, having lived in Baja California Sur for a number of years. He also said he no longer felt patriotic and would raise a fist during the playing of the national anthem at public events. Ventura has declared he would no longer fly commercially and has repeatedly stated "I love my country, not my government" in post-press-release interviews. The ultimate outcome of the TSA constitutional matter remains undetermined, and Ventura has not stated whether he would continue his lawsuit.
Comments on religion
In a Playboy interview, Ventura said, "Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers. It tells people to go out and stick their noses in other people's business. I live by the golden rule: Treat others as you'd want them to treat you. The religious right wants to tell people how to live." In his 1999 best-selling memoir I Ain't Got Time to Bleed, Ventura responded to the controversy sparked by these remarks by elaborating on his views concerning religion: "I’d like to clarify [my comments published in Playboy] about religious people being weak-minded. I didn’t mean all religious people. I don’t have any problem with the vast majority of religious folks. I count myself among them, more or less. But I believe because it makes sense to me, not because I think it can be proven. There are lots of people out there who think they know the truth about God and religion, but does anybody really know for sure? That’s why the Founding Fathers built freedom of religious belief into the structure of this nation, so that everybody could make up their minds for themselves. But I do have a problem with the people who think they have some right to try to impose their beliefs on others. I hate what the fundamentalist fanatics are doing to our country. It seems as though, if everybody doesn’t accept their version of reality, that somehow invalidates it for them. Everybody must believe the same things they do. That’s what I find weak and destructive."
Ventura often came under fire for allegations that he lied about being in the Navy SEALs. Bill Salisbury, an attorney in San Diego and a former Navy SEAL officer, accused Ventura of "pretending" to be a SEAL and wrote that Ventura would be blurring an important distinction by claiming to be a SEAL when he was actually a frogman with the UDT. Compared to SEAL Teams, UDTs saw less combat and took fewer casualties. Although Ventura underwent SEAL training, the UDTs merged with the SEALs in 1983, eight years after Ventura left the Navy. Following that, Governor Ventura's office confirmed that Ventura was a member of the UDTs. His spokesman stated that Ventura has never tried to convince people otherwise. Ventura stated: "Today we refer to all of us as SEALs; that's all it is," and dismissed the accusations of lying about being a SEAL as "[m]uch ado about nothing."
Opie and Anthony Incident
The Opie and Anthony Show hosted Ventura on December 2, 2009. During the show, arguments erupted between co-host Jim Norton and Ventura regarding the use of the military overseas as well as the official account regarding September 11 attacks, which Ventura questioned the official account of, but stated on the show he did not necessarily believe the government was behind it. The debate evolved into a dispute over illegal immigration in which Ventura was arguing against what he claimed individuals are asked for their IDs by the Border Patrol deep within US borders in an effort to combat illegal immigration. Ventura argued that such a move violated the Constitution. After Norton disagreed with Ventura's statement and Ventura went on to accuse Norton for not believing in the Constitution, the two continued to argue and Ventura walked off the air. When Norton asked why Ventura was leaving, Ventura angrily replied, "There's a fucking guy here telling me I've got a schedule, asshole," to which Norton replied, "You're using dirty language, asshole." As Ventura left the room, Norton denounced some of Ventura's comments on Norton supposedly not supporting the Constitution; Ventura walked off from where the show was being held and Norton called Ventura a "fucking baby." The incident was recorded on camera and gained nearly a million hits since the video was posted in December 2009 on YouTube as of February 2012.
In December 2011 TMZ reported that Jesse Ventura was pulled over for tailgating another vehicle in the San Fernando Valley while on his way to the airport and that the police officers who pulled him over let him go with a warning. However, Ventura dismissed the rumors and one of his attorneys stated he had not been in California since July 15, 2011. Ventura also stated that he had not left Minnesota for over a month at the time the story was published and that he has refused to fly commercially since filing an unsuccessful lawsuit against the TSA earlier that year. Ventura warned that he was considering a lawsuit against TMZ over the article, which has since been taken off their website and he also denounced the rumors as a smear campaign against him.
Chris Kyle controversy
In January 2012, Chris Kyle, a former Navy SEAL who had served in Iraq and had 160 confirmed kills and thus the deadliest marksman in US military history, promoted his recently released book American Sniper on the Opie and Anthony Show, the same radio show where Ventura got into a verbal acceleration with a host two years prior. When Kyle was on the air, a listener called in and asked about how Kyle allegedly punched Ventura in a bar fight. Although the call was ignored, Gregg 'Opie' Hughes nevertheless asked Kyle about the rumor. Kyle suggested that he did indeed punch Ventura in the face at a bar popular with Navy SEAL personnel in Coronado, California for loudly expressing criticism of the Iraq War back in 2006 during a wake for Michael A. Monsoor, a Navy SEAL who was killed in action in Iraq the same year and was also awarded the Medal of Honor. According to Kyle, Ventura was "bad-mouthing the war, bad-mouthing (former President) Bush, bad-mouthing America." Although Kyle, who wrote about the incident in his book but did not mention Ventura by name, stated he asked Ventura to tone down his voice because the families of SEAL personnel were present, Ventura allegedly went on to say that the SEALs "deserved to lose a few guys," after which Kyle stated he punched Ventura in the face and then left the area because police were nearby. After Kyle told what happened, Ventura was interviewed by radio host Alex Jones, who is also a friend of Ventura, regarding what happened. During the interview, Ventura denied the rumors and even stated that had the confrontation occurred in the first place, Kyle was admitting to assault and claimed that he never met Kyle nor has he heard of him before. Ventura also stated that the bar, known as Mc P's, was owned by a former Navy SEAL who was his cadre instructor when in the military and that he would not misbehave at the bar. Because the rumors emerged as Ventura was travelling down to his second home in Mexico, Ventura felt that the story was released at that point so he would be unable to properly fight the allegations. Following this interview, Kyle called the Opie and Anthony Show to clarify what happened and urged witnesses who were present at the bar to come forward to back his claims. Jones himself also called and an argument erupted over the validity of the incident. During the dispute on the show, Kyle offered to meet with Ventura to end the dispute.
Ventura, who stated in February 2012 that he would sue Kyle for defamation in court, posted a comment on his official Facebook page stating the following:
On July 18, 1975, three days after his twenty-fourth birthday, Ventura married his wife Terry. The couple have two children: a son, Tyrel, who is a film and television director and producer, and a daughter, Jade.
Ventura and his wife split their time living in both Minnesota and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. "There are no newspapers down where I live. Where I live, I'm an hour from pavement and an hour from electricity. I'm completely off-the-grid."
During his wrestling days, Ventura used anabolic steroids. He admitted this after retiring from competition, and went on to make public service announcements and appear in printed ads and on posters warning young people about the potential dangers and potential health risks of abusing steroids.
In 2002, Ventura was hospitalized for a severe blood clot in his lungs, the same kind of injury that ended his wrestling career.
In 1999, Ventura stated in an interview on NBC that he considered himself to be a Christian, though he did not attend church. However, in April 2011 on both the Piers Morgan Tonight and the The Howard Stern Show, Ventura stated he is an atheist and believes that his views regarding atheism could potentially disqualify him for office in the future.
Ventura endorsed equal rights for religious minorities, as well as people who do not believe in God, by declaring July 4, 2002, "Indivisible Day". Ventura proclaimed October 13–19, 2002 as "Christian Heritage Week" in Minnesota.
- 1998 election for Governor
- Jesse Ventura (Ref.), 37%
- Norm Coleman (R), 34%
- Hubert H. Humphrey III (DFL), 28%
- I Ain't Got Time to Bleed: Reworking the Body Politic from the Bottom Up (May 1999) ISBN 978-0-375-50332-0
- Do I Stand Alone? Going to the Mat Against Political Pawns and Media Jackals (September 2000) ISBN 978-0-7434-0586-7
- Jesse Ventura Tells it Like it Is: America's Most Outspoken Governor Speaks Out About Government (September 2002, co-authored with Heron Marquez) ISBN 978-0-8225-0385-9
- Don't Start the Revolution Without Me! (March 2008, co-authored with Dick Russell) ISBN 978-1-60239-273-1
- American Conspiracies (March 2010, co-authored with Dick Russell) ISBN 978-1-60239-802-3
- 63 Documents the Government Doesn't Want You to Read (April 2011, co-authored with Dick Russell) ISBN 978-1-61608-226-0
- "The Great"
- "The Body"
- "The Governor"
- "The Mind"
Championships and accomplishments
- American Wrestling Association
- Cauliflower Alley Club
- Iron Mike Mazurki Award (1999)
- Central States Wrestling
- NWA World Tag Team Championship (Central States version) (1 time) – with Tank Patton
- Continental Wrestling Association
- International Wrestling Institute and Museum
- Frank Gotch Award (2003)
- NWA Hawaii
- Pacific Northwest Wrestling
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- PWI ranked him #239 of the 500 best singles wrestlers during the "PWI Years" in 2003
- PWI ranked him #67 of the 100 best tag teams of the "PWI Years" with Adrian Adonis