Opie and Anthony
||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (June 2014)|
|Running time||7:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., Monday through Friday|
|Air dates||March 13, 1995 to June 27, 2014|
|Opening theme||"The Ecstasy of Gold" by Ennio Morricone
"Street Fighting Man" by Rage Against the Machine
Opie and Anthony was an American talk radio show featuring Gregg "Opie" Hughes and Anthony Cumia until Cumia's firing in July 2014. Stand-up comedian Jim Norton also served as co-host. Following Cumia's firing, Hughes and Norton continued on with a show that airs in the United States and Canada on XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio under the title Opie with Jim Norton, while Cumia started a subscription-based video internet show at his website under the title The Anthony Cumia Show.
Based in New York City, The Opie & Anthony Show began in 1995 on WAAF in Boston, Massachusetts, and later moved to WNEW-FM in New York with syndication on other stations, until being canceled in 2002. After exhausting their contract with their previous employers, which kept them from broadcasting on WNEW while also preventing them from appearing on radio elsewhere, they moved to XM Satellite Radio in 2004.
On April 26, 2006, Opie and Anthony returned to the terrestrial airwaves after a four-year absence, replacing CBS Radio's short-lived David Lee Roth Show, which aired mainly on the eastern coast of the United States. The terrestrial broadcast of the show ran until March 9, 2009. The team was terminated by WXRK when it flipped formats from rock to Top 40. In July 2014, Cumia was fired by SiriusXM. The show resumed on July 14, 2014 without Cumia as Hughes and Norton retained their hosting duties. In October 2014, Hughes and Norton renewed their contract with SiriusXM to continue the show.
- 1 Background and history
- 1.1 WAAF (1995–1998)
- 1.2 WNEW-FM (1998–2002)
- 1.3 XM Satellite Radio (2004–2014) and return to broadcast radio (2006–2009)
- 1.4 Run-ins with the FCC
- 2 Program content
- 3 Other enterprises
- 4 Controversies
- 5 Other appearances
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Background and history
Opie hosted The Nighttime Attitude which aired from 8 pm-midnight on WBAB on Long Island. In August 1994, Opie was seeking innovative ideas, and received an entry during an O.J. Simpson parody song contest from listeners Anthony and Joe Cumia. The song was titled "Gonna Electric Shock OJ" sung to the tune of Otis Redding's "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay." The song was a hit on Hughes' show, and he invited the Cumia brothers to the studio to play live in September 1994. Soon afterward, Hughes and Cumia became a radio team. Shortly after Cumia's arrival, he and Hughes requested that the show be moved to morning or afternoon drive, the two most listened to timeslots in radio. When the station refused, Hughes and Cumia moved the show to afternoon drive on WAAF in Boston, Massachusetts, where they premiered on March 13, 1995 as Opie & Anthony.
One of Opie and Anthony's most notable Boston stunts was their staged giveaway of "100 Grand", which was hyped for weeks. When they finally gave away the prize, the "winning" caller laid into the duo with biting invective after he realized the repairs he needed to make to his truck would be un-affordable with a 100 Grand candy bar instead of $100,000.
The duo were fired in April 1998 from WAAF for an April Fool's Day prank involving Mayor Thomas Menino. Opie and Anthony told their listeners that the Mayor had been killed in a car accident while transporting a young female Haitian prostitute. Many believed the story, leading Menino to file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission, as the FCC prohibits the broadcast of knowingly false information if it causes public harm. WAAF suggested that the duo have pies thrown at them while being held in town square stocks. The idea was summarily dismissed by the mayor's office. Facing a possible license challenge, WAAF fired them, but Opie and Anthony promised that they would return to Boston and get revenge.
During their early days on XM, Anthony stated that the intent of the April Fool's prank was to allow the duo to be released from their contract with WAAF. He also stated that the duo had been having illegal meetings with WNEW prior to the April Fool's prank. He preceded these comments with "The statutes of limitations must be up on this." Anthony later back tracked and stated that they made up that story to try and build it up more.
In 2001, Opie and Anthony signed a syndication deal with Infinity to syndicate their show on 22 stations nationwide, including WBCN in Boston, longtime rival of WAAF. By this time, show friend Andrew Dice Clay had introduced Opie and Anthony to Jim Norton, a comedian who toured with and opened for Clay. Norton was a hit on Opie and Anthony and soon became a regular on the show, appearing three or four days per week.
The Voyeur Bus
In November 2000, sixteen people associated with the show (including comedian Lewis Black and future show member Jim Norton) were arrested during a promotion for "The Voyeur Bus", a mostly glass-sided bus carting naked women through Manhattan with a police escort. The stunt was harshly condemned by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. The duo contend that they were singled out because President Bill Clinton was in town that day.
O&A hosted the short-lived XFL Gameday – the pregame show for Vince McMahon's startup football league – for four weeks in February 2001. The half-hour show aired nationally on Saturday nights on select NBC affiliates prior to the evening's games. The show was taped on Wednesdays at the WWF's theme restaurant in Times Square, and was open to the public. It featured analysis by WNBC sportscaster Bruce Beck and New York/New Jersey Hitmen head coach Rusty Tillman, but also featured plenty of raunch. One particular segment featured Opie and Anthony as chefs, inserting a cucumber in between two melons. Opie and Anthony were almost banned from Giants Stadium for life during the filming of one episode when they imitated a proposed XFL rule where first possession was determined by placing the ball at midfield and having two opposing team-members attempt to get it. Opie and Anthony did this as "God Bless America" began to play before a game. They said that the $100,000 cost of making each new show was the cause of its demise, though no official reason was given for its cancellation.
Sex for Sam
One of Opie and Anthony's stunts was "Sex for Sam", an annual contest where the goal was to have sex in notable public places in New York City. Couples from various states would be selected to be trailed by a comedian or member of the show, who would call the program to report the location. The contest was sponsored by Boston Beer Company, maker of Samuel Adams beer, and prizes included trips to Boston concerts sponsored by the beer company. The contest was approved by the station and had no major problems for the first two years.
However, in "Sex for Sam 3", comedian Paul Mecurio encouraged Brian Florence and Loretta Harper, a Virginia couple visiting Manhattan, to have simulated sex in a vestibule at St. Patrick's Cathedral on August 15, 2002, which was also a Catholic Holy Day of Obligation, and a Mass was going on at the time. When a security guard ordered Mecurio and the couple to leave the church immediately, Mecurio began to argue with the guard, who then contacted police. The couple was arrested and charged with public lewdness. Intense media scrutiny led to the Catholic League demanding that Opie and Anthony be fired. The Catholic League also threatened to get WNEW's license revoked.
Opie and Anthony broadcast the next day, but were ordered not to directly address the incident for legal reasons. The show went into reruns the following week. On August 22, Infinity suspended Opie and Anthony for the duration of their contract and canceled the show. However, the company continued to pay the duo to stay off the air for the balance of their contract. The Catholic League immediately dropped its bid to have WNEW's license revoked.
The repercussions of the incident were widespread:
- Infinity was fined a total of $357,500 by the FCC, the maximum amount allowed by law, and the second-largest indecency fine in American radio history. Infinity appealed the fine but again lost the case.
- WNEW's ratings had been dreadful overall aside from Opie and Anthony. With the forced cancellation of its only strong performer, its ratings dropped even lower than those of noncommercial stations and never recovered. The station began playing music again in January 2003, starting with a Top 40 format, then going to an adult contemporary format, and later switching to a classic dance music format before returning to the AC format, at which point the station's call letters were changed to WWFS. The station has since been moderately successful. In a bit of irony, Opie and Anthony would make fun of an incident at WNEW in late 2004, in which the program director got drunk, went on air, and confused the call letters with those of WNEW's arch-rival WKTU.
- Harper pleaded guilty a month later to disorderly conduct and was sentenced to seven days of community service. Her partner, Brian Florence, died of a heart attack on September 25, 2003.
XM Satellite Radio (2004–2014) and return to broadcast radio (2006–2009)
Opie and Anthony returned to the air on October 4, 2004 exclusively for XM Satellite Radio after two years off the air. Initially, the show was offered to XM subscribers at a premium cost of $1.99 a month, to which they encountered some resistance. In April 2005, "High Voltage" became part of the basic XM subscription. There are no numbers available with respect to the number of premium subscribers. Hughes gave some indication, however, when he told the Long Island press in 2006, "We went from having a show that was syndicated in 17 major markets to having a few thousand," which did not help to remove the discrepancy.
"Assault on the Media"
A major part of the XM show was the "Assault on the Media", led by "The Pests" to give the show additional exposure. On May 19, 2005, show intern Nathaniel showed up behind Arthur Chi'en of WCBS-TV. The disruption caused Chi'en to shout "What the fuck is your problem, man?" while the cameras were still rolling. Chi'en was fired a few hours later. (The situation brought the show nationwide press.)
DirecTV suspends "High Voltage" channel
On April 17, 2006, DirecTV ceased airing the High Voltage channel on their satellite TV service, citing subscriber requests for more music channels and fewer talk and sports channels. However, less than a week elapsed before inside sources announced that, due to overwhelming audience demands that Opie and Anthony return to DirecTV, the channel would be restored on April 26, 2006. Opie & Anthony frequently mentioned on the air that they always hated the title "High Voltage", which was selected by one of the company lawyers. They had been trying to change the name but were unsuccessful for the first 2 years, until Eric Logan announced on their October 4, 2006 broadcast that High Voltage would be renamed "The Virus" on November 20, 2006, pursuant to the demands of hardcore Opie and Anthony fans known as "The Pests".
Meanwhile, on April 24, 2006, Opie and Anthony announced that they signed a deal with CBS Radio in which the first three hours of the show would be broadcast on nine of CBS's rock stations, the first official show airing April 26. After an 18-month run on XM, The Opie & Anthony Show began simulcasting on XM Radio and various terrestrial radio stations from 6 am to 9 am EST. From 9 am to 11 am (and on some days until noon), the show was broadcast exclusively on XM Radio. XM listeners were able to hear the show uncensored for the entire show (except when the main feed is "self-censored" by the hosts). During the 6–9 slot, the FM-only listeners would hear a Federal Communications Commission-compliant version of the show. In Philadelphia, Opie and Anthony achieved a threefold increase in the month of May over David Lee Roth's April ratings in the age 18–34 demographic. In Boston, Opie and Anthony doubled the number of all age demographics and achieved an even greater increase in younger listeners.
On May 15, 2007, XM suspended Opie & Anthony for 30 days, in response to a broadcast featuring a homeless man who wandered into the studio. Opie and Anthony dubbed the man "Homeless Charlie", who mentioned the possibility of raping Condoleezza Rice and Laura Bush. Fans reacted to the news of the suspension by canceling their XM Radio subscriptions, with some fans even going as far as smashing their XM units. XM did offer a free month of service to subscribers who called in complaints of the suspension. Moreover, some sponsors pulled their advertising off XM in protest of the suspension. The radio duo's month-long suspension from XM ended on June 15, 2007, when they returned to XM's airwaves.
According to the Winter 2007 arbitron ratings, Opie and Anthony doubled Roth's ratings with their target demographic of 18 to 34-year-olds. But the improvement merely amounted to an increase of 2% to about 4% of the audience—a third of numbers Howard Stern got in New York City before moving to satellite radio. Following the Summer 07 Arbitron ratings, Opie and Anthony's 18- to 34-year-olds ratings slipped, while their morning drive rating in NYC of 2.1 left them only ahead of sports based WFAN network in the morning. In the spring 2008 under the new Portable people meter ratings system, Opie and Anthony again failed to crack the top ten in morning drive, and their flagship station WXRK ranked 20th out of 24 stations in overall ratings and out of the top ten in the coveted 25–54 demographic.
Affiliates drop Opie and Anthony
During their tenure at K-Rock, almost all of Opie and Anthony's affiliates (many of which were in major markets) systematically dropped the show, primarily due to declining ratings. By November 30, 2008, Opie and Anthony remained in only three major cities – New York, Boston, and Cleveland. The following day, however, WBCN in Boston dropped them in favor of their local Toucher & Rich show, while WKRK switched to a jockless alternative rock format.
On March 9, 2009, Opie & Anthony were heard on WXRK for the last time, and spent much of the time discussing the impending format change, and how their services were "no longer needed" at the station. Their executive producer for the FM portion, Michael "Stuntbrain" Opelka, was fired the following day.
As of October 1, 2010, the Opie and Anthony show renewed their contract with SiriusXM satellite radio for 2 years. The two often mentioned that they would not renew their contract after it expired, citing their disgust with the poor way they were often treated by Sirius management as the primary reason. However, they eventually decided to renew their contract in 2012 after the company "came forward", according to Opie.
On October 13, 2011, the Opie and Anthony show's station was changed from the ViRUS to The Opie and Anthony Channel.
On July 3, 2014, Cumia was fired by SiriusXM, after making a series of tweets following an alleged off-air incident with a black woman on the street. Cumia tweeted that he was punched by the woman while attempting to take a picture in Times Square. The tweets were described by Sirius XM as "racially-charged and hate-filled". Cumia stated on the Saturday, July 12 episode of Red Eye w/Greg Gutfeld that he was not going to apologize for the incident.
At the time of Cumia's firing SiriusXM made no comment as to Hughes' possible future with the company at that time. Cumia gave his blessing for the Sirius XM show to continue without him, acknowledging Hughes and Norton's obligation to fulfill their contract with SiriusXM. A relaunched Opie with Jim Norton Show resumed on July 14, 2014 with Hughes and Norton discussing the incident and noting that "The Opie and Anthony Channel" was renamed "Sirius XM Talk", along with various other alterations by the company in light of the firing. In October 2014, Hughes and Norton signed a new contract to continue the SiriusXM show, which appears on the rebranded "Opie Radio" Channel.
Both Opie and Anthony have said they would someday in the future do a show together again, under the correct circumstances.
Run-ins with the FCC
The Federal Communications Commission has twice fined Opie and Anthony for broadcasting material deemed in violation of decency standards. The first fine involved several November 2000 – January 2001 airings of a jingle produced by Dru Boogie, a DJ/producer who regularly produces content for the show. The $21,000 fine also involved a segment of "Guess What's in My Pants", as well as a song titled, "I'm Horny for Little Girls".
Opie and Anthony's second FCC violation – the "Sex for Sam" broadcast in August 2002– set a precedent for being the first time that a fine was issued to each individual station airing the alleged indecent material. The total, assessed in late 2003, was $357,500: $27,500 against each of the thirteen CBS Radio/Infinity-owned stations that broadcast the show. Infinity appealed both fines, after which its parent company Viacom made a $3.5 million settlement in 2004 which canceled all pending indecency violations.
Opie and Anthony comment on American sociopolitical and popular culture. Some have categorized them as shock jocks, despite their disagreement with the term. Hughes, Cumia and Norton broadcast for approximately four hours per day. Some of the more hardcore Opie and Anthony fans, nicknamed "Pests", have been known to go to extreme grassroots efforts to promote the show.
Friends and regular guests on the show include Jim Florentine, Dan Soder, Joe Rogan, Patton Oswalt, Dave Attell, Joe DeRosa, Louis C.K. (who famously asked Donald Rumsfeld if he was a space lizard who ate Mexican babies), Bill Burr, Brian Regan, Doug Stanhope, Robert Kelly, the late Otto & George, Marc Maron, Bob Saget, Penn Jillette, Ricky Gervais, Tom Papa, Amy Schumer, Jim Jeffries, Bonnie McFarlane, the late George Carlin, Rich Vos, Colin Quinn, Nick DiPaolo the late Greg Giraldo and Patrice O'Neal, most of whom have substituted for Norton when he has left New York to pursue his stand-up comedy and acting.
The duo released a compilation of segments from the show that aired on WAAF on a CD entitled Demented World in November 1997.
Opie and Anthony Traveling Virus
The Traveling Virus is a comedy tour headlined by Opie and Anthony, as well as friends of the show, that began in 2006. In its first year, it spanned several locations in the eastern United States during the summer. In 2007, it visited eight cities through the spring and summer. It was an event they had discussed for many years, but were never able to bring it to fruition until they made their latest deal with CBS radio.
Search and Destroy
On the morning of March 26, 2008, Opie & Anthony revealed they had taped a pilot for Comedy Central. The show was titled Search & Destroy and features teams of comedians performing various tasks throughout New York City. Opie and Anthony believe that it may have been too graphic even for cable television. Although Opie and Anthony considered the pilot a success, Comedy Central did not pick the show up.
- April Fool's Day: On April 1, 1998, while still on WAAF in Worcester, O&A announced that the mayor of Boston, Thomas Menino, had been killed in a car accident in Florida. Things became heated after Menino's daughter called the station believing the story to be true, and the duo was terminated the following week. During the early days of XM, Anthony stated that the intent of the April Fool's prank was to allow the duo to be released from their contract with WAAF. He also stated that the duo had illegal meetings with WNEW before the April Fool's prank. He prefaced these comments with "the statutes of limitations must be up on this." Despite the controversy that was started by the April Fool's Day prank, the duo was hired by WNEW-FM in New York City less than five months later.
- W.O.W.: During their WAAF years, O&A established "Whip 'em Out Wednesdays," which encouraged women to flash their breasts to anyone with a "W.O.W." sign. Consequently, it was common around Massachusetts to see cars with W.O.W. stickers, signs and even painted lettering. The campaign came to an end on WAAF in the summer of 1997, when the station forced the duo to discontinue the stunt and suspended the show for three weeks. W.O.W. has since been reintroduced to the show; W.O.W. stickers and signs are more common in O&A's biggest markets: New York and Boston. The campaign gained notoriety when a woman flashed the famous crowd fly-by camera during a broadcast of The Today Show. They are less visible in other markets, such as San Francisco, as they are more reluctant to back the W.O.W. promotion.
- Voyeur Bus: Fifteen participants in the show's "Voyeur Bus", including the driver, six dancers, and eight associates of the show, were arrested for disorderly conduct. The dancers had performed topless, fully visible through the vehicle's large transparent windows, which was driven along busy Manhattan streets. Charges against the eight associates were later dropped. New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani described the publicity stunt as "stupid."
- Homeless Shopping Spree: In late 1999, shortly before Christmas, O&A held the first "Homeless Shopping Spree", which has since become an annual event. The bit involves a dozen of New York's homeless, who are each given several hundred dollars by the show and much more by the fans, and are taken to a posh shopping mall, most notably the Mall at Short Hills in Short Hills, New Jersey. They are allowed to buy whatever they want, including warm clothes and other items they could not normally afford, while being cheered on by the thousands of listeners who show up. In the 1999 Spree, the mall reacted by closing several of the nicer stores and eventually have the twelve homeless men removed from the mall by security. Boston mayor Thomas Menino expressed outrage at the event, declaring that the Homeless Shopping Spree degraded and humiliated the contestants, and that it was immoral to hold such an event on the same day the city was to do a census count of the homeless townspeople. The event was repeated at the same mall on December 16, 2006.
- T&A with O&A: Opie and Anthony held a station-promoted beach party on the shores of Angola, NY (a suburb of the city of Buffalo) on Saturday July 13, 2002; they claimed 5,000 persons were in attendance. Several female attendees appeared nude or topless, and at least one inserted vegetables into various orifices. Buffalo officials quickly dispersed the crowd, warning O&A and crew not to return, lest they endure legal action. Additionally, FCC complaints were filed despite the event not being broadcast on any medium. Furthermore, reminiscing about the event on their July 25, 2011 show, Opie claimed that shortly after the event took place, management at WNEW informed the duo off-air that police in Erie County (who received over 250 complaints from area residents) had begun the process of securing warrants for their arrest over the incident. The aftermath went unrealized, as it was overshadowed by the more serious "Sex For Sam 3" incident roughly a month later.
- The Eggnog Drinking Challenge: An annual challenge where contestants have to drink as many shots of eggnog as possible before vomiting. On December 1, 2006, during the Challenge, Pat from Moonachie drank 75 double-shots of eggnog and subsequently vomited all over prospective intern Pat Duffy's mouth. This was dubbed the "Baby Bird" by comedian Joe Rogan and became a hit on both the O&A website as well as Break.com due to YouTube's initial refusal to carry the video.
- Condoleezza Rice, Laura Bush & Queen Elizabeth II: A homeless man (Homeless Charlie) making a guest appearance on the XM version of the show described how he would like to have sex with the United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, First Lady Laura Bush, also calling Queen Elizabeth II "horse-faced", an act which the hosts joked could only happen through force. In the wake of the Don Imus firing, there was speculation that O&A might be fired following that segment that aired on their program May 9, 2007. On their Friday show, Opie and Anthony apologized for the bit by begrudgingly saying, "We apologize to the public officials for comments that were made on our XM show on May 9. We take very seriously the responsibility that comes with our creative freedom and regret any offense that this segment has caused." On May 15, 2007, XM suspended Opie and Anthony for 30 days.
- Donald Trump made a handful of calls to the show to promote his television series The Apprentice, and it appeared that relations between the radio show and Donald Trump were positive. However, Trump was later interviewed and called Opie and Anthony "two slobs" and swore never to appear on the show again, seemingly over a press release made by O&A that stated that Trump called them. Trump interpreted that statement as implying that he was desperate for media attention. Trump was supposed to call the show on January 10, 2008, but did not. Trump's son Donald Trump Jr. has appeared many times on the show since then, and relations between the Trump family and radio show are positive again.
- Jesse Ventura: The Opie and Anthony Show hosted former Governor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura on December 2, 2009. During the show, a disagreement between co-host Jim Norton and Ventura erupted into an argument regarding the September 11 attacks, of which Ventura has questioned the official account, as well as the use of the military overseas. Ventura also suggested that Norton did not believe in the Constitution, which the latter strongly denied. Twenty minutes into the debate, Ventura walked off the air and the two exchanged explicit comments towards one another. As Ventura left the studio, Norton said, "Fucking baby. Big fucking guy who doesn't like the little guy yelling."
- Weinergate Photo Release: During his June 8, 2011 appearance, Andrew Breitbart showed Opie and Anthony a picture of Anthony Weiner's erect penis. A listener forwarded them a screenshot captured from their live Paltalk video feed, and Opie posted it on Twitter. Andrew Breitbart claimed to be very upset at what transpired. Opie had also taken a picture of the photo during the showing without the knowledge of Breitbart.
- Chris Kyle vs. Jesse Ventura: Former Navy Seal Chris Kyle appeared on the January 4, 2012 show promoting his book American Sniper. A listener called in to ask about Chris allegedly getting into a bar fight with former Governor and Underwater Demolition Team member Jesse Ventura in 2006. Opie decided to ask Kyle about the rumor, with the latter saying he did punch Ventura. After telling the story, radio personality Alex Jones, who is a friend of Ventura, claimed that Kyle was a "war monger" and that the whole interview was staged. This prompted a phone call by Kyle to the January 10, 2012 show by claiming he knew people who were present that will back him up on the story. Alex Jones then called the show and there was an argument to whose story was right. Ventura himself denied the accusations and sued Kyle's estate, a jury ultimately ruled in favor of Ventura and he was awarded 1.8 million dollars in damages.
- Firing of Cumia: On Wednesday, July 2, 2014 Cumia was allegedly attacked by a black woman after she accused him of taking pictures of her in Times Square. Cumia subsequently went on Twitter and made repeated comments about the woman and the incident. The next day SiriusXM released a statement claiming that the comments were, "racially charged and hate-filled" and fired him from the show.
Through the show's friendship with Lazlow Jones, the hosts as well as show staff have appeared in several Rockstar Games releases including Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories and Red Dead Redemption.
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- Straight From The Mouth
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- Opie & Anthony's Demented World
- Exclusive: Dates for Opie and Anthony Travelling Virus Comedy Tour leak
- Opie & Anthony: Something Wickedly Funny This Way Comes
- 970 AM's lineup could be all the talk
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- A 2008 version of the shopping spree was planned, but the event was quickly dumped as the crew was informed by the overly cautious lawyers that the spree could be conducted only if the mall in question gave permission. No holiday humor in radio pair’s jollies over degrading homeless Boston Herald
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- "Anthony Weiner Penis Photo Released By Opie And Anthony". Huffington Post. 2011-06-08. Retrieved 2011-06-08.
- "Radio host confronts seal sniper over Ventura bar brawl story…and reveals ‘Psy-Ops’ theory". Theblaze.com. Retrieved 2012-01-10.
- Opelka, Mike. "Navy Seal Smackdown? Jesse Ventura denies Sniper's Story". http://www.theblaze.com. Retrieved 26 May 2012.
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- "$1.8 Million for Ventura in Defamation Case". New York Times. July 29, 2014.