Former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura told a court on Monday his income dropped by 90 percent a year after his reputation was damaged by what he called a fictitious passage in a book by a former Navy SEAL who said the two had gotten in a bar fight.
Seeking damages for defamation, Ventura testified that he has not been in a fight since he left the Navy decades before the alleged encounter described by former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle in "American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History," published in early 2012.
Ventura, who entered politics after a career as a professional wrestler, said in testimony on Monday his career was thriving until the book's publication but afterward work started to dry up, with a TV show on conspiracy theories that he had hosted for three seasons not being renewed for a fourth. He said his income had been about $1 million a year in the prior decade but that it dropped off after Kyle's book came out.
"It came to a screeching halt is the best way I can put it," Ventura said of his entertainment career.
In the book, Kyle described punching a celebrity he identified as "Scruff Face," who he said made disparaging remarks about SEALs. He identified "Scruff Face" as Ventura during interviews supporting the book's release.
Kyle, who was killed in 2013 at a Texas shooting range by a troubled Iraq war veteran, said in a videotaped deposition played for jurors last week he punched Ventura that night, describing the former governor as loud and belligerent.
On Friday, Ventura testified he had no recollection of Kyle. Ventura also said he quit drinking in 2002 due to blood thinning medication that makes him bleed and bruise easily.
Ventura, a former member of the Naval Special Forces Underwater Demolition/SEAL teams, sued Kyle in 2012, contending the incident never happened and that the account hurt Ventura financially.
After Chris Kyle's death, Ventura named his wife, Taya Kyle, as defendant in the lawsuit as the overseer of his estate. "American Sniper" has generated more than $2.5 million in royalties split between Kyle, his agent and co-authors.
Ventura, who was Minnesota's governor from 1999 to 2003, has not specified a damages amount in his lawsuit.
The trial began last week and is expected to take about three weeks.
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