|38th Governor of Minnesota|
January 4, 1999 – January 6, 2003
|Preceded by||Arne Carlson|
|Succeeded by||Tim Pawlenty|
|Mayor of Brooklyn Park|
|Preceded by||James Krautkremer|
|Succeeded by||Grace Arbogast|
|Born||James George Janos
July 15, 1951 
Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Theresa Larson Masters (1975–present)|
|Alma mater||North Hennepin Community College|
|Awards|| National Defense Service Medal
Vietnam Service Medal
|Service/branch||United States Navy|
|Years of service||1969–1975|
|Rank||Petty Officer Third Class|
James George Janos (born July 15, 1951) better known by his stage name Jesse Ventura is an American former professional wrestler, actor, political commentator, author, naval veteran, and politician who served as the 38th Governor of Minnesota from 1999 to 2003. He was the first and only member of the Reform Party to win a major government position, but later joined the Independence Party of Minnesota.
Ventura was a U.S. Navy Underwater Demolition Team member during the time of the Vietnam War. After leaving the military, he embarked on a professional wrestling career from 1975 to 1986, taking the ring 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 WWE Hall of Fame in 2004. Near the end of his wrestling career, Ventura started acting, appearing in films such as Predator and The Running Man (1987).
Ventura first entered politics as Mayor of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, from 1991 to 1995. Four years after his mayoral term ended, Ventura was the Reform Party candidate in the Minnesota gubernatorial election of 1998, running a low-budget campaign centered on grassroots events and unusual ads that urged citizens not to "vote for politics as usual". Ventura's campaign was unexpectedly successful, with him narrowly defeating both the Democratic and Republican candidates. The highest elected official to ever win an election on a Reform Party ticket, Ventura left the Reform Party a year after taking office amid internal fights for control over the party.
As governor, Ventura oversaw reforms of Minnesota's property tax as well as the state's first sales tax rebate. Other initiatives taken under Ventura included construction of the METRO Blue Line light rail in the Minneapolis–Saint Paul metropolitan area, and cuts in income taxes. Ventura left office in 2003, deciding not to run for re-election. After leaving office, Ventura became a visiting fellow at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government in 2004. He has since also hosted a number of television shows and has written several political books. Ventura remains politically active and currently hosts a show on Ora TV and on RT called Off the Grid.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Professional wrestling career
- 3 Acting career
- 4 Political career
- 5 Post-gubernatorial life
- 6 Controversies
- 7 Personal life
- 8 Books
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Ventura was born James George Janos on July 15, 1951 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the son of George William Janos and his wife, Bernice Martha (née Lenz). Both of his parents were World War II veterans. Ventura has an older brother who served in the Vietnam War. Ventura has described himself as Slovak, since his father's parents were from what is now Slovakia; his mother was of German descent. Ventura was raised as a Lutheran. Born in south Minneapolis "by the Lake Street" bridge, as he described on the October 27, 2014, Piper's Pit podcast, he attended the Cooper Elementary School, Sanford Junior High School, and graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1969. Roosevelt High School inducted Ventura into its first hall of fame in September 2014.
Ventura served in the United States Navy from December 1, 1969, to September 10, 1975, as a member of Underwater Demolition Team12 during the Vietnam War era. He graduated in BUD/S class 58 in December 1970 and was part of Underwater Demolition Team 12
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 Star Tribune in April 2001, "Until you have hunted men, you haven't hunted yet."
Near the end of his service in the Navy, Ventura began to spend time with the "Dago" chapter of the Mongols motorcycle club 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, but he never had any problems with the authorities. In the fall of 1974, Ventura left the bike club to return to the Twin Cities. Shortly after that, the Mongols entered into open warfare with their biker rivals, the Hells Angels.
Ventura attended North Hennepin Community College in suburban Minneapolis in the mid-1970s. At the same time, he began weightlifting and wrestling. He was a bodyguard for The Rolling Stones for a time, before he entered professional wrestling and changed his name to Jesse Ventura.
Professional wrestling career
A 1987 education campaign poster aimed at teenagers featuring then-professional wrestler Jesse Ventura
|Birth name||James George Janos|
July 15, 1951 |
|Professional wrestling career|
|Ring name(s)||Jesse Ventura|
|Billed height||6 ft 4 in (193 cm)|
|Billed weight||245 lb (111 kg)|
|Billed from||Brooklyn Park, Minnesota|
|Trained by||Eddie Sharkey|
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" gimmick. As a wrestler, Ventura performed as a heel and often used the motto: "Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat!", even going so far as having himself a T-shirt made with the words printed on the front. Much of his flamboyant persona was adapted from Superstar Billy Graham, a charismatic and popular performer during the 1970s–1980s. 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. 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. In his RF Video shoot in 2012, he revealed that shortly after he arrived in the AWA he was given the nickname "the Body" by Verne Gagne. 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. He claimed that the blood clots were a result of his exposure to Agent Orange during his time in Vietnam. Ventura returned to the ring in 1985, forming a tag-team with "Macho Man" Randy Savage & Savage's manager (and real-life wife) Miss Elizabeth. Often after their televised matches Ventura would taunt and challenge fellow commentator Bruno Sammartino, but nothing ever came of this.
Ventura also participated in a six-man tag team match in December 1985 when 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. The tag match against the Hillbillies came about after Piper and Orton interrupted Elmer's wedding ceremony on the previous edition of the show; Ventura, who later claimed that he was under instruction from fellow commentator and owner of the WWF Vince McMahon to "bury them", insulted Elmer and his wife during commentary of what was a real wedding ceremony at the Meadowlands Arena, by proclaiming when they kissed: "OMG they look like two Carp in the middle of the Mississippi River going after the same piece of corn." According to Ventura the wedding was real, for at that time the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board would not allow the WWF to stage a fake wedding in the state of New Jersey, so Stan Frazier (Uncle Elmer) and his fiance had agreed to have a real in-ring wedding.
After a failed comeback bid, Ventura hosted his own talk segment on the WWF's Superstars of Wrestling called "The Body Shop", in much the same heel style as "Piper's Pit", though the setting was a mock gym. He also began to do color commentary on television for All-Star Wrestling, replacing Angelo Mosca, and later Superstars of Wrestling, initially alongside Vince McMahon and the semi-retired Sammartino, and then just with McMahon after Sammartino's departure from the WWF in 1988. Ventura most notably co-hosted Saturday Night's Main Event with McMahon, the first six WrestleManias (five of which were alongside Gorilla Monsoon), and most of the WWF's pay-per-views at the time with Monsoon, with the lone exception for Ventura being the first SummerSlam, in which Ventura served as the guest referee during the main event.
Ventura's professional wrestling commentary style was an extension of his wrestling persona, i.e. a "heel", as he was partial to the villains, which was something new and different at the time. McMahon, who was always looking for ways of jazzing things up, came up with the idea of Ventura doing heel commentary at a time when most commentators, including McMahon himself, openly favored the fan favorites.
However, Ventura would still occasionally give credit where it was due, praising the athleticism of wrestlers such as Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat and Randy Savage, who was championed by Ventura for years, even when he was a face, a point Ventura regularly made on-air to McMahon and Monsoon. Occasionally he would even acknowledge mistakes made by the heels, including those made by his personal favorites such as Savage or wrestlers managed by heels Bobby "The Brain" Heenan and "The Mouth of the South" Jimmy Hart.
One notable exception to this rule was the WrestleMania VI Ultimate Challenge title for title match between WWF Champion Hulk Hogan and the WWF Intercontinental Champion, The Ultimate Warrior. Since they were both fan 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, stating that Hogan was going out like a true champion. During the match, however, which was also the last match at Wrestlemania he called, Ventura did voice his pleasure when both broke the rules, at one point claiming, "This is what I like. Let the two goody two-shoes throw the rule book out and get nasty." Ventura's praise of Hogan's action was unusual for him, because he regularly rooted against Hogan during his matches, usually telling fellow commentator Monsoon after Hogan had won a championship match at a Wrestlemania that he would "come out of retirement and take this dude out". Hogan and Ventura were at one point close friends. However, Ventura abruptly ended the friendship after he discovered, during his lawsuit against McMahon, that Hogan was the one who had told McMahon about Ventura's attempt to form a labour union in 1984. Following a dispute with 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. Ventura was ultimately released by WCW President Eric Bischoff for allegedly falling asleep during a WCW Worldwide TV taping at Disney MGM Studios in July 1994, although it has been speculated that the move may have had more to do with Hogan's arrival shortly before.
Ventura generally worked well with most of his fellow commentators, with the exception of Jim Ross, during his time with WCW. In a radio interview, Ventura stated that working with Ross was hard, as he would often say something controversial in favor of the heel wrestler or manager, only for Ross — who at that time had only worked with those who favored the fan favorites — to ignore the comment and continue with his play-by-play.
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. As a result, Ventura's commentary is removed on most releases from WWE Home Video.
Return to the WWF/E
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 McMahon.
Ventura was guest host on the November 23, 2009, episode of Raw during which he retained his heel 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 did not 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 and Chairs. During the show, for the first time in nearly 20 years, McMahon joined Ventura at ringside to provide match commentary together.
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
- World Wrestling Entertainment
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter Awards
Nearing the end of his wrestling career, Ventura began an acting career. He 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 was in the independent comedy Woodshop, starring as a high school shop teacher named Mr. Madson. The film was released September 7, 2010.
|The Running Man||Captain Freedom|
|1990||Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe||Abraxas|
|1993||Living and Working in Space: The Countdown Has Begun||DMV Testee|
|1994||Major League II||Himself|
|1997||Batman & Robin||Arkham Asylum Guard|
|2002||The Master of Disguise||Himself|
|2005||The Ringer||Motivational Speaker|
|2012||The Drunk||Governor Littleton|
Jesse Ventura was a bodyguard for the Rolling Stones in the late 1970s and '80s. The Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger said of Jesse Ventura, "He's done us proud, hasn't he? He's been fantastic."
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.
Ventura also co-hosted the short-lived syndicated game show The Grudge Match alongside sportscaster Steve Albert.
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. He also had a brief role on the television soap opera The Young and the Restless in 1999.
Ventura has been criticized by the press 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.
From 2009–2012, TruTV aired three seasons of the television series Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura.
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 Minnesota
Ventura 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 organized in part by his campaign manager Doug Friedline 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, Ventura announced that he would not run for a second term, stating that he no longer felt dedicated enough to his job to run again as well as what he viewed were constant attacks on his family by the media. Ventura accused the media of hounding him and his family for personal behavior and belief while neglecting coverage of important policy issues. He 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.
In political debates, Ventura 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.
Lacking a party base in the Minnesota House of Representatives 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, only three of which 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. Nevertheless, Ventura was still successful 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.
Later, he came to support a unicameral (one-house) legislature, property tax reform, gay rights, and abortion rights. 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.
In an interview on The Howard Stern Show, he reaffirmed his support of gay rights, including gay marriage and gays in the military, humorously stating he would have gladly served alongside homosexuals when he was in the Navy as they would have provided less competition for women. (Later, on the subject of a 2012 referendum on amending the Minnesota constitution to limit marriage to male-female couples, Ventura elaborated "I certainly hope that people don't amend our constitution to stop gay marriage because, number one, the constitution is there to protect people – not oppress them", and went on to relate a story from his pro wrestling days of a friend who was denied hospital visitation to his same-sex partner.)
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.
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 METRO Blue Line was completed in 2004.
During another trade mission to Cuba in the summer of 2002, he denounced the American economic sanctions against Cuba, stating that the sanctions affected the Cuban public more than it did its government.
Views on political parties
Ventura, who ran on a Reform Party ticket and advocated for a greater role for third parties in American politics, is highly critical of both Democrats and Republicans. Ventura described both parties as "monsters that are out of control" who are concerned only with "their own agendas and their pork."
Despite having been a supporter of third parties as governor and having voted for Ralph Nader in 2008 as a protest vote, although he did vote for John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election, 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?" Ventura still remains an independent and has indicated in the event he runs for political office in the future, he would not run with any political party.
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. Barkley was succeeded by Norm Coleman, who won the seat against Walter Mondale, who became the Democratic candidate replacement a few days before the election.
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.
In November 2011, Ventura held a press conference in relation to a lawsuit he had filed against the Transportation Security Administration. During that press conference, Ventura stated that he would "never stand for a national anthem again, I will turn my back and raise a fist the same way Tommy Smith and John Carlos did in the ’68 Olympics, Jesse Ventura will do that today."
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.
Consideration of bids for other political offices
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 hinted at intentions of possibly running again for political office. In an interview on CNN's The Situation Room on April 7, 2008, Ventura said 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 Democratic candidate 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. Franken ended up winning the election.
In his 1999 autobiography, I Ain't Got Time to Bleed, Ventura suggested he did not plan on running for President of the United States 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 announced before a live audience that if he saw that the public was willing to see a change in the direction of the country, 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 was "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 said, "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 in a November 2011 article that he thinks Ventura would have a chance at winning, if he declared his intention to run at that point and ran a serious campaign, but that it would be a long shot.
In September 2012, Ventura announced on several shows, including Piers Morgan Tonight, The View, The Alex Jones Show, and The Howard Stern Show that if a grassroots movement gets him national ballot access in all fifty states and Puerto Rico, as well as access to participate in the presidential candidate debates, he will "seriously consider" running for president in 2016, as an Independent. Ventura reiterated in 2013 that he is still considering a run for president and has suggested that Howard Stern may be his running mate should he wage a bid. However, in an interview on the RT network just days before the 2014 midterm elections, Ventura stated that US House representative from Georgia and former Green Party presidential nominee, Cynthia McKinney, agreed to be his running mate in the 2016 presidential election if he decided to run.
- 1998 election for Governor
Ventura was succeeded in his office on January 6, 2003, by Republican Tim Pawlenty. He began a weekly cable television show in October 2003, on MSNBC called Jesse Ventura's America; the show was short-lived and ended only a couple of months after it began.
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 Governor of Maine 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, 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 the 2012 Senate elections, Ventura endorsed King in his campaign for the open Senate seat in Maine, in which King won.
In November 2004, an advertisement began airing in California featuring Ventura. In it, Ventura voiced his opposition to then-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".
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.
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." However, after Mitt Romney became the presumptive nominee for the Republican party presidential candidate in May 2012, Ventura gave his support to Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson on June 12, 2012, whom Ventura argued was the choice for voters who "really want to rebel."
In September 2012, Ventura and his wife appeared in an advertisement calling for voters to reject a referendum to be held in Minnesota during the November elections that would ban same-sex marriages in the state. The referendum was defeated.
Bush 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:
I will criticize President Obama on this level: it's a good thing I'm not president because I would prosecute every person that was involved in that torture. I would prosecute the people that did it. I would prosecute the people that ordered it. Because torture is against the law. [King: And you were a Navy SEAL] That's right and I was waterboarded...at SERE school, Survival Escape Resistance Evasion [sic]. It was a required school you had to go to prior to going into the combat zone, which in my era was Vietnam. All of us had to go there. We were all in essence, every one of us was waterboarded. It is torture. [King: What was it like?] It's drowning. It gives you the complete sensation that you are drowning. It's no good, because you—I'll put it to you this way, you give me a water board, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I'll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders. ... If it's done wrong, you certainly could drown. You could swallow your tongue. [It] could do a whole bunch of stuff to you. If it's done wrong or—it's torture, Larry. It's torture.
Ventura then stated that he had no respect for 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 a brief interview with Alex Jones in September 2006, Ventura began expressing doubts regarding the events behind the September 11 attacks. Ventura expressed concern over NORAD's response to the four commercial airliners that were hijacked and compared it to the response to the plane crash that killed professional golfer Payne Stewart in 1999, in which fighter jets were scrambled to intercept Stewart's jet. However, Ventura did not state that he believed the government orchestrated the attacks, but did argue that the government has contemplated false flag attacks in the past, citing Operation Northwoods as an example.
In April and May 2008, Jesse Ventura, in several radio interviews for his new book, Don't Start the Revolution Without Me, reiterated his concerns about what he described as some of the unanswered questions about 9/11. 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.
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."
On April 9, 2011, when Piers Morgan from CNN asked Ventura what his official view on the events of 9/11 was, Ventura said, "My theory of 9/11 is that we certainly – at the best we knew it was going to happen. They allowed it to happen to further their agenda in the Middle East and go to these wars."
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 traveled 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.
Books written by Ventura
During his time as governor, Ventura wrote a number of politically themed books. He continued to write several other books after leaving office. 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, described 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."
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 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 in the public domain.
Ventura also wrote DemoCRIPS and ReBLOODlicans: No More Gangs in Government, which was released in 2012. The book expresses Ventura's opposition to the two-party system and calls for political parties to be abolished. He has finished his latest book They Killed Our President: 63 Reasons to Believe There Was a Conspiracy to Assassinate JFK which was printed and released in October 2013, coinciding with the 50th anniversary on November 22, of President Kennedy's assassination.
Lawsuit against the TSA
In January 2011, Ventura filed a lawsuit against the Transportation Security Administration for being subject to controversial pat-downs. Ventura, who received a titanium hip replacement in 2008 that sets off metal detectors at airport security checkpoints, 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.
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. After his press conference on the issue, upon being asked if he would next go to the Court of Appeals, Ventura responded:
What for? I want a trial by jury. They tell me I can't have a jury decide my fate. They want three government paid judges to decide it. Well it'll never see the light of day then. They claim it's because of security reasons: We can't even know what the rules are at the TSA. How do we know if we're being abused if they won't even tell us what the rules are?
We The People
On July 31, 2014, Ventura launched a weekly podcast distributed by Adam Carolla's "Carolla Digital" called We The People. Guests have included Larry King, Roddy Piper, Donald Trump, and leaders of the 9/11 Truth movement. The podcast ran until March 4, 2015. During the time it was being distributed, Ventura promoted the podcast.
Bill Salisbury, an attorney in San Diego and a former Navy SEAL officer, has accused Ventura of "pretending" to be a SEAL. He 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.
Salisbury described Ventura's Navy training thus:
[Ventura] took a screening test at boot camp to qualify for...Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (buds/s) training...Those who completed bud/s, when [Ventura] was in training, were sent to either a SEAL or an underwater demolition team. Graduation did not, however, authorize the trainee to call himself a SEAL or a udt frogman. He had to first successfully complete a six-month probationary period in the Teams.
Although Ventura underwent UDT training, he never attempted the additional 26-week SEAL Qualification Training. On completion of his BUD/S training, Ventura was assigned to a UDT team. In 1983, eight years after Ventura left the Navy, the UDTs were disbanded and those operators were retrained and retasked as SEALs.
Some people, notably retired SEAL Don Shipley argue that since Ventura's BUD/S training was common to UDTs and SEALs, and the work of UDTs and SEALs was similar, he is entitled to call himself a SEAL. The National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum website traces the history of the SEALs, where the Underwater Demolition Teams subsequently become the U.S. Navy SEAL Teams.
Responding to the controversy, Governor Ventura's office confirmed that Ventura was a member of the UDT. 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 "much ado about nothing".
Former Navy SEAL Brandon Webb, the editor of the website SOFREP.com, wrote a column on the site in which he stated, "Jesse Ventura graduated with Basic Underwater Demolition Class 58 and, like it or not, he earned his status." He disagreed with the argument that Ventura was a UDT and not a SEAL, by stating "try telling that to a WWII UDT veteran who swam ashore before the landing craft on D-Day." He expressed the opinion that "the UDTs and SEALs are essentially one and the same. It's why the UDT is still part of the training acronym BUD/S."
Opie and Anthony Show incident
The Opie and Anthony Show hosted Ventura on December 2, 2009. The theme was Ventura's show, Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura. A debate arose with Ventura opposing the hosts on torture and suspension of due process after the September 11 attacks, as well as the wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq.
The debate shifted from terrorist profiling to racial profiling of Mexicans, in which Ventura said when returning to the United States from his home in Mexico, two hours after crossing the border into Arizona, he witnessed Border Patrol agents demanding proof of citizenship on a highway in an effort to combat illegal immigration, actions that Ventura argued were violating the Constitution. When co-host Jim Norton, who defended these actions by the Border Patrol, said he also believed in the Constitution, Ventura said, "No, you don't, 'cause you're saying this is OK."
Both Ventura and Norton continued to argue over the government's handling of illegal immigration. During the debate, Ventura told Norton to not "put words in my mouth". Norton defended doing so by saying Ventura was doing the same, to which Ventura said "Bye, guys" and prepared to exit the studio. When Norton asked Ventura why he was leaving, Ventura said, "No, I'm not. There's a fucking guy here telling me I've got a schedule, asshole," Norton replied, "You're using dirty language, asshole." Further tension ensued, with Norton making various insults and accusations of physical intimidation.
Norton continued to vent after Ventura left the studio, calling Ventura a "fucking baby" and a "big fucking guy who doesn't like the little guy yelling." The incident was recorded on camera and gained over a million views since the video was posted in December 2009 on YouTube. Ventura, who was hosted on the Opie and Anthony Show a few times prior to the incident, has not returned to the show since.
Chris Kyle controversy
On January 4, 2012, Chris Kyle, a former U.S. Navy SEAL, promoted his recently released book American Sniper on the Opie and Anthony Show. When Kyle was on the Opie and Anthony Show, a listener called in and asked about how Kyle allegedly punched Ventura in a bar fight. Show host Gregg 'Opie' Hughes asked Kyle about the rumor. Kyle claimed that he punched Ventura in the face at a bar in Coronado, California which was popular with Navy SEAL personnel. According to Kyle, he did this because Ventura loudly expressed criticism of the Iraq War back in 2006 during a wake for Michael A. Monsoor, a Medal of Honor recipient and Navy SEAL who had been killed in action in Iraq the same year. Kyle indicated that Ventura, who was present in San Diego to give a speech to a graduating BUD/S class, was "letting it be known he did not agree" with the war in Iraq, and was "bad-mouthing the war, bad-mouthing (former President) Bush, bad-mouthing America."
Although Kyle, who wrote about the alleged incident in his book but did not mention Ventura by name, said he approached Ventura and asked him to tone down his voice because the families of SEAL personnel were present, Ventura allegedly said to Kyle that the SEALs "deserved to lose a few guys." Kyle said he responded by punching Ventura.
On January 5, 2012, Chris Kyle was interviewed by Bill O'Reilly on The O'Reilly Factor. The lead off question Bill O'Reilly had was, "First of all, you say, you knocked Jesse Ventura to the floor with a punch. Now you don't mention his name, but everyone knows who that is. Number one, that happened? You knocked him out?" To which Kyle replied, "Yeah. Well, I knocked him down."
Following these interviews, radio host Alex Jones interviewed Ventura on January 8 regarding what happened. During the interview, Ventura denied the rumors, saying he never met Kyle nor had he heard of him before. Ventura argued that had the confrontation occurred, Kyle would be admitting to assault and that the incident would have become known across the Navy SEAL community, as Ventura had been a member of the UDT/SEALs community. Ventura also stated that the bar, known as McP'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.
Ventura, reiterating that the incident did not happen, posted a comment on his official Facebook page saying the following:
The event this man spoke of never happened. I have been to McP's many times since leaving the Navy. I was never there alone. I was always accompanied by other people. If this happened 6 years ago, someone would have known of it before now. Certainly in the UDT/SEAL community it would have been known. This has to be news to all of us. I have always opposed the war in Iraq but I have never spoken or wished any ill will towards the soldiers. My heart aches that soldiers have died or been wounded because this war should never have taken place. I am perplexed over the agenda this man has and why a fellow Navy Seal [sic] would tell a lie about an event that never happened.
Lawsuit against Chris Kyle and his estate
Ventura filed a defamation suit against Kyle in January 2012. Ventura initially considered dropping the lawsuit, but said several retired Navy SEALs (including the owner of McP's) demanded that Ventura continue his lawsuit, which Ventura did after Kyle failed to agree on a settlement in which he would state that the incident never happened. In a motion filed by Kyle's attorney in August 2012 to dismiss two of the suit's three counts, declarations by five former SEALs and the mothers of two others supported Kyle's account. However, in a motion filed by Ventura, Bill DeWitt, a close friend of Ventura and former SEAL who was present with him at the bar, suggested that Ventura interacted with a few SEALs but was involved in no confrontation with Kyle, and said that Kyle's claims were false. DeWitt's wife also said she never witnessed any fight between Kyle and Ventura.
Although the lawsuit was ongoing as of 2013, Kyle was murdered in an unrelated incident on February 2, 2013. In May 2013, Ventura substituted Taya Kyle, as executor of Chris Kyle's estate, as the defendant, with his lawyers arguing that "it would be unjust to permit the estate to continue to profit from Kyle’s wrongful conduct and to leave Governor Ventura without redress for ongoing damage to his reputation."
The jury trial started on July 8, 2014. Testimony and arguments were heard until July 22, 2014. On July 29, 2014, after a three-week trial in Federal Court in Saint Paul, Minnesota, including six days of jury deliberations, and upon the agreement of both plaintiff and defendant to accept a divided jury verdict, the jury arrived at an 8 to 2 divided verdict in favor of the plaintiff, and awarded Ventura $1.8 million: $500,000 for defamation and $1,345,477.25 for unjust enrichment.
On August 7, 2014, U.S. District Judge Richard H. Kyle (no relation to Chris Kyle) upheld the jury's award of $500,000 in defamation damages and adopted the jury's advisory award of $1,345,477.25 in unjust enrichment as, "reasonable and supported by a preponderance of the evidence." Attorneys for Kyle's estate said that the defamation damages would be covered by HarperCollins' libel insurance. The unjust enrichment award was not covered by insurance and must be paid from Kyle's estate assets. Following the verdict, HarperCollins announced that it would pull the sub-chapter "Punching out Scruff Face" from all future editions of the book.
In a post-trial interview, one juror said that the defense provided a confusing checklist of events, e.g., that there were multiple locations of where the alleged punch occurred from the defense witnesses and that the defense witnesses were under the influence of alcohol at the time the alleged fight occurred. The juror also stated that Kyle's using a pseudonym for Ventura in the book was to keep it "under wraps" and that, if it were true, then the juror thought Kyle should have used Ventura's name. Additionally, the juror found it compelling from photographs in the days after the alleged punch that Kyle, who was over 6 feet tall, over 200 pounds and in top physical shape, could punch Ventura, who was on blood-thinners, knock him to the ground, and not leave a facial mark.
On September 4, 2014, attorneys for Taya Kyle, as executor of the Estate of Chris Kyle, filed a motion for judgement as a matter of law or a new trial with the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota. On September 26, 2014, attorneys for Ventura filed their reply to motions from Kyle's estate, that Ventura had proven Kyle's story was "materially false", that there was sufficient evidence for the jury to find actual malice and that there should not be a new trial. Attorneys for Taya Kyle on October 3, 2014 filed a reply to Ventura's response to the motions. This motion had to be ruled on before an appeal to the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals can be filed. On November 25, 2014, in a 24-page order, Judge Kyle denied all of the motions from the Estate of Chris Kyle, and wrote: "CONCLUSION At bottom, the Court concludes Defendant received a fair trial and that the jury’s verdicts were supported by substantial evidence. Defendant is obviously disappointed in those verdicts, but her disappointment does not lay a foundation for a new trial or for judgment as a matter of law. Having found all of Defendant’s arguments wanting, and based on all the files, records, and proceedings herein, IT IS ORDERED that Defendant’s Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law or New Trial (Doc. No. 404) is DENIED." On December 23, 2014, attorneys for Taya Kyle, as executor of Chris Kyle's estate, filed notice of intent to appeal with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Case Number 14-3876.
On December 16, 2014, attorneys for Ventura filed a lawsuit against HarperCollins regarding the book American Sniper. Ventura’s new lawsuit claims that publicity created by Chris Kyle’s telling of the alleged incident "increased sales" and generated "millions of dollars for HarperCollins."
On June 16, 2015, attorneys for Ventura filed a lawsuit against Taya Kyle, Case # 2:2015mc00206 in the California Central District Court. The nature of the lawsuit is, "Other Statutory Actions".
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. With the exception of the first two WrestleManias, Ventura would always say hello to "Terry, Tyrel and Jade back in Minneapolis" during his commentary of the annual event. Tyrel also had the honor of inducting his father into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004. Tyrel also worked on Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura and was an investigator in the show's third season.
Ventura and his wife split their time living in both Minnesota and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Regarding his life in Mexico, Ventura said, "I live one hour from pavement and one hour from electricity,..." "I drive down and back every year and it's truly an adventure to live down there where I do, because I'm off the grid,..." "I have electricity but it's all solar. I'm completely solar-powered down there. And it makes you pay more attention. It makes you turn the lights off when you're not using them."
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 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.
In April 2011, Ventura said on the The Howard Stern Show that he is an atheist and believes that his beliefs could disqualify him for office in the future, arguing that, "I don't believe you can be an atheist and admit it and get elected in our country." In an earlier interview with CNN in October 2010, Ventura denounced religion as the "root of all evil." You notice every war is fought over religion." Ventura also said in 2012 that he was baptized a Lutheran.
Although a staunch critic of religion, Ventura is a supporter of religious freedom. He endorsed equal rights for religious minorities, as well as people who do not believe in God, by declaring July 4, 2002, "Indivisible Day". Ventura inadvertently proclaimed October 13–19, 2002 as "Christian Heritage Week" in Minnesota.
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- "The Howard Stern Show". Howard Stern Show. April 5, 2011. 143 minutes in. Sirius XM Radio.
Actually Howard, I can't even run for office anymore. [...] Like George [Takei] I've come out of the closet. ... I'm an atheist. ... I don't believe you can be an atheist and admit it and get elected in our country.
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