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Walk away, Scruff Face: An open letter to Jesse Ventura

Courtroom sketch by Ken Avidor
“You can avoid a lot of situations by not putting yourself in bad situations,” you told the jury. Governor, listen to yourself.

Dear Jesse,

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A guy (you) walks into a bar, six days or six months or six years from now, and some leather-lunged former fan of yours hollers, “Hey Jesse! Good job at kicking that widow’s ass! Nice work beating a dead guy!”

No? Well, get ready, because that’s your legacy if you keep going with this lawsuit that matches two egomaniacal macho military men in a dispute over a bar fight that probably never happened but is now being drawn out in stunningly tedious fashion in a U.S. District courtroom in St. Paul, thanks to you and your need to be on stage and winning.

I’m sure you see it differently, that this is a fight to save your besmirched reputation and a blow for the truth, but from here it stinks of a low-rent wrestling card that nobody but you wants anything to do with:

In this corner, we have you, the Navy SEAL/wrestler/actor/conspiracy theorist and former governor of Minnesota. In that corner, we have Chris Kyle, who before he was murdered last year on a shooting range by a fellow gun enthusiast and former soldier, wrote a book called “American Sniper: The autobiography of the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history” and alleged that while at a bar in San Diego in 2006, he clocked a guy he nicknamed “Scruff Face” (you) for making disparaging remarks about America and the SEALS.

Who will prevail? Who is the biggest, truest SEAL? Who is the real American hero? Who will come out on top in Clint Eastwood’s forthcoming Kyle biopic? Who is the most patriotic patriot? Who has the biggest penis?

Who cares?

Governor, you and I both know enough about bars and bullies that some guys are always looking for a fight, in real life or in print, and the only thing you can do is not engage, walk away, and create something better. You said as much yourself in court Friday, when talking about how you avoided conflict during your wrestling days.

“You can avoid a lot of situations by not putting yourself in bad situations,” you told the jury, most of whom looked as bored as the judge, I, and the few gathered media/gallery members were. “It’s kind of like you’re going down a road and one road is well-lit and the other is dark and sinister and you’ve got to make a choice which road you’re gonna go down. If you’re smart, you’ll take the one that’s well-lit and not put yourself in a position where something could happen.”

Governor, listen to yourself. I did, Friday. I sat behind you in the front row, watching you spasmodically rock back and forth and listened to you talk about your life, career and accomplishments. “All of my books have been New York Times best sellers,” you said, three times. You recounted films you’ve starred in, talked about how you told a friend “can’t” isn’t in your vocabulary when he told you “you can’t win” the 1998 race for governor, recounted how you “shocked the world” by becoming governor, claimed how you teaching as a fellow at Harvard could happen “only in America,” and expounded on how your talk radio voice has consistently risen above the rest of the media jackals.

More than anything, you were on the stand to prove your love of country and SEALS. You spoke passionately about your parents’ service in World War II. You brought in five boxes of 100 Underwater Demolition Team SEALS T-shirts you’ve collected over the years, and unbuttoned your shirt to show your SEALS tattoo to a couple of reporters at the end of Friday’s proceedings before your attorneys corralled you.

“My service in the UDT SEALS is probably the most proudest thing I’ve ever done, even more so than becoming mayor and governor,” you told the jury. “Because that was something solely based upon me. Becoming mayor and governor, was based upon you. But going through BUDS (basic underwater demolition) and UDT SEALS training was only me. It defines me today, I carry it with pride today. It’s the thing I’m probably most proud of in my 63 years of existence of anything I’ve done.”

Brother, listen to yourself. Then do yourself a favor and walk away – not only from this endless stupid bar fight that left Kyle’s widow sobbing on the stand last week, but from the military industrial complex that brainwashed you into believing in fight not flight. Take those boxes of SEAL shirts and torch them in a massive purifying ceremony, then get on with the next part of your life, about which I’ve got a few ideas.

Look, we go way back. You saved my life when you were working as an ASIA security beast for the Rolling Stones/Peter Tosh concert at the St. Paul Civic Center on July 10, 1978. We were both in front of the stage, on other sides of the security barrier. The crush of thousands of Stones fans had cracked the wooden boards in front of me and the knife-planks were stabbing into my 19-year-old chest.

When I yelled for help you braced your back up against it, called for help, and duct-taped and roped the planks together. The Stones came on soon after and blew our minds.

I’ve thanked you for it before, the one time we had a phone conversation, and now I’m wondering: Where’s the Jesse who took in all the music that night? Where’s the fun, forgiveness, and true freedom, the kind that has nothing to do with America or the military’s narrow definition of it? Where’s the spiritual insight that you presumably glean from your annual six months “off the grid” you take in Mexico?

Well, I believe it’s in there, somewhere deep down, and just waiting to be tapped and unleashed. My brother, I saw you exchange a warm if uncomfortable grin with Mrs. Kyle in the courtroom Friday, which leads me to believe that all is not lost, and that you have an opportunity here. We live in crazy times in a crazy world, but you have a chance to do some real good. Instead of the emperor with no clothes you very much resembled on the stand Friday, you have a chance to, in one sweet moment, serve as an elder, a wise man, and become the face of anti-douchebag nation.

Just do it. Hold a press conference. Hug the widow. Have a good cry (the real kind, not the fake-actor kind that made headlines over the weekend), and become Jesse Ventura, new age man and leader of the feMENist movement who strikes a blow for compassion above all else. “I was wrong and he was wrong,” your prepared statement will read. “This whole thing has been gauche and ungentlemanly and unworthy of the SEALS. Chris was my SEAL brother, and out of respect for his memory, I’m putting this behind me. Mrs. Kyle, I’m sorry for your loss. We can do better. Love thy enemy. Let the healing begin!”

Since that’s not likely to happen anytime soon (say, like when you take the stand again today) and because you’re not about to listen to me, maybe you’ll listen to your friend and fellow SEAL Robert Leonard, who wearily said on the stand Friday, “[Jesse] doesn’t want to be here. We shouldn’t be here. As far as I’m concerned, Chris Kyle and [Jesse] should have figured this out between themselves.”

No kidding.

Walk away, governor, or the joke’s on you.

Comments (13)

  1. Submitted by Jackson Cage on 07/14/2014 - 09:08 am.

    Sorry Jim

    First, you write at length about how much the SEALS mean to Jesse. If that’s accurate, then how can he walk away from a claim that he wishes them dead? Sorry, there are some things worth standing up for. And it would be just as easy for Mrs. Kyle to acknowledge that fact. While his death was tragic for his wife, it doesn’t change the fact that her husband was also a blowhard and maybe a liar.

    Look, I thought Jesse completely blew his opportunity as Guv and I think he’s been a complete disgrace since. But I’m not gonna bash him on this one. The only thing that gives the Kyles the moral high ground is a subsequent event unrelated to the issue at hand.

  2. Submitted by Mike Evangelist on 07/14/2014 - 09:11 am.

    “Who cares?”

    Exactly. Well put Jim.

  3. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 07/14/2014 - 10:31 am.

    Jesse attains his goal

    Win or lose this will get Jesse on the talk show circuit where the spotlight is that he seeks. Self promotion is his game. He doesn’t have any shortage of ego. Just like little kid. It doesn’t matter if it is good attention or bad. Attention is attention. Jesse wins.

  4. Submitted by phil schmid on 07/14/2014 - 11:18 am.

    Great advice

    He saved you once, Jim, and you’ve given Ventura a plan to save himself in a sense. He should welcome your advice and quit this fool’s game as you’ve so thoughtfully outlined.

  5. Submitted by Stephanie Sarich on 07/14/2014 - 11:23 am.

    I don’t blame Jesse

    There’s so much vitriol against the ex-Governor. If the whole matter was just about whether he was punched or not, I would be inclined to agree that he should drop it. But he was alleged to say that the SEALs “deserved to lose a few.” Would you not fight back if someone claimed you opined that about your co-workers or schoolmates?

    I believe people are letting their personal opinions about Ventura cloud their judgment — noticed that in the Strib also. Give the guy a break. (And heck, he was a much better governor than Pawlenty was).

  6. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 07/14/2014 - 11:30 am.

    I agree with Robert Leonard, but since it didn’t get settled between them, I agree with Jackson.

    Ventura’s ego isn’t the issue. Kyle made some real serious accusations in the book; the kind of stuff you don’t forget, and repeated them in interviews. If Jesse did say those things, he’s a real lowlife and he got off light, if he didn’t, Kyle owes him an apology and\or a fat stack of greenbacks.

    Kyle can’t apologize now, but if history is any measure, the fat stack will do for Ventura.

  7. Submitted by Bruce Pomerantz on 07/14/2014 - 11:46 am.


    If none of this matters, why is Minnpost covering the trial? The appropriate bromides are:
    (1) Practice what you preach
    (2) The writer protests too much.

  8. Submitted by sue salmela on 07/14/2014 - 01:39 pm.

    Ventura’s ego is not at issue

    He could have let it go…but why is the writer investing so much
    energy in this?

    Is there more going on here? Rather nasty letter and so much emotion!

  9. Submitted by Meeche Miller on 07/14/2014 - 02:02 pm.


    I add my signature to this letter to Jesse – it tells it like it is – old Jesse is and always will be a publicity hound – he will stop at nothing to get his ugly face on the news – he is disgraceful and a disgrace to Minnesota. I am positive the jury will laugh at him for suing this hero’s widow – the hero was a real Seal and not one who, according to this book, had nothing good to say about America

  10. Submitted by Neal Gendler on 07/14/2014 - 03:00 pm.

    I’m astonished…

    …to find myself saying anything in defense of blowhard Jesse Ventura, but as anther writer said, he wasn’t at all a bad governor. That’s because he was smart enough to know what he couldn’t do, appointed almost all good department heads, and then mostly left them alone to do their jobs.

    It’s hard to imagine anyone besmirching a man who’s spent decades making a ridiculous spectacle of himself, but if Kyle’s claim can be disproven, I hope Jesse wins.

    And I hope he’s awarded $1.

  11. Submitted by James Hamilton on 07/14/2014 - 04:12 pm.

    I expect no more and no less from Mr. Ventura

    than what’s been on display the past week. Let the media walk away from this, because he won’t.

    In the “For What It’s Worth Department”: He’s suing Mrs. Kyle in her capacity as representative for her husband’s estate. My educated quess is that there’s insurance money sitting at the end of the rainbow, if he makes it that far, and that Mrs. Kyle won’t be out a cent unless the trial proceeds to a punitive damages phase and he wins there as well.

    An enterprising reported might want to confirm or refute my suspicions by asking to see the discovery between the parties. I guarantee Kyle was asked whether he had insurance for the claim and how much.

  12. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/15/2014 - 08:29 am.

    I hate to say it but I’m with Jesse on this one

    Look, this former sniper has also has an audience, think about who that audience is. Ventura and his family got death threats based on Kyle’s account, and regardless what Ventura does to his own reputation, it’s no license for anyone else to besmirch his reputation.

    If Kyle’s account is a fabrication, it’s a fabrication, a lie. Thus far as far I can tell Kyle’s side has not produced a lot of evidence supporting his account. Kyle’s accusations are vile, he’s claimed that former Navy Seal waded into a group of other SEALS morning a lost comrade and made despicable comments.

    As for Mr. Walsh, Obviously Ventura has some undeclared medical issues, making fun of his stature, appearance, and shaken demeanor smacks of cruel adolescent behavior.

    We’re all adults here. Kyle and his wife made their choices, if Kyle decided to grab some headlines by making a false claim about decking Ventura in a bar, THAT was his decision and his estate has to contend with that. Ventura is entitled to his day in court, and Kyle, great sniper though he may have been, isn’t entitled to make stuff up and publicize it.

  13. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/15/2014 - 09:01 am.

    And I have to say…

    I’m a little surprised to see this published on Minnpost. I know Mr. Walsh is a local writer of some note but if anyone were to post this letter as a “comment” it would likely have been rejected. Minnpost doesn’t usually abide by name calling. “Scruff Face?” Does Mr. Walsh really think he can come out of the gate hurling insults and end up with some kind of viable suggestion for a resolution?

    Again, Kyle’s account resulted in death threats being directed at Ventura and His family. Remember, Kyle himself was shot to death by a fellow veteran. When people in Kyle’s universe make death threats, it’s not funny, I know I wouldn’t be laughing. If Kyle did fabricate this account, Ventura is absolutely entitled to to seek redress in the courts scruffy face or not.

    Isn’t there a hint of hypocrisy in attending a trial in order to report on it, and then complaining about the lawsuit behind the trial? Trials aren’t concerts, their function is not to entertain, you don’t pay to attend, and the audience experience is irrelevant. That’s one thing that I’ve always thought is kind of funny about entertainment reporters, on a very basic level they wouldn’t have much of a job were it not for all the silly antics of celebrities and the “bad” entertainment out there. Yet reporters will complain about all the bad entertainment and silly antic of celebrities.

    Anyways, Ventura’s problem at the end of the day is going to be assigning some kind of dollar amount to the damage Kyle’s alleged fabrication may have caused. This could end up being one of those situations where Ventura “wins” the case but is awarded the grand sum of $1.00 for his troubles beyond his legal expenses. I suggest we let the court work this out and keep the insults out of it. Maybe this lawsuit was or wasn’t a good idea in the end, but isn’t that Ventura’s problem?

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