Jesse Ventura

Jesse Ventura (born James George Janos; July 15, 1951) is an American media personality, actor, author, retired professional wrestler, and former politician who served as the Mayor of Brooklyn Park from 1993 to 1995 and as the 38th Governor of Minnesota from 1999 to 2003. He was the first and only candidate of the Reform Party to win a major government position.

Jesse Ventura
Ventura in 2016
38th Governor of Minnesota
In office
January 4, 1999  January 6, 2003
LieutenantMae Schunk
Preceded byArne Carlson
Succeeded byTim Pawlenty
Mayor of Brooklyn Park
In office
January 11, 1991  January 13, 1996
Preceded byJames Krautkremer
Succeeded byGrace Arbogast
Personal details
James George Janos

(1951-07-15) July 15, 1951
Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
Political partyIndependent (before 1998, 2003–present)
Other political
Reform (1998–2000)
Independence Party of Minnesota (2000–2003)
Theresa Masters (m. 1975)
EducationNorth Hennepin Community College
WebsiteOfficial website
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Navy
Years of service1969–1975
Rank Petty officer third class
Battles/warsVietnam War
Awards National Defense Service Medal
Vietnam Service Medal
Ring name(s)Jesse Ventura[1][2]
Billed height6 ft 2 in (188 cm)[3]
Billed weight245 lb (111 kg)[3]
Billed fromSan Diego, California
Brooklyn Park, Minnesota[4]
Trained byEddie Sharkey[1]
DebutJune 1974[2]

Ventura was a member of the U.S. Navy Underwater Demolition Team during the Vietnam War.[5] 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 (WWF) as a performer and color commentator, and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame class of 2004.[1] In addition to wrestling, Ventura pursued an acting career, appearing in films such as Predator and The Running Man (both 1987).

Ventura first entered politics in 1991 when he was elected mayor of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, a position he held until 1995. Three years later, 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.[6]

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.[7][8] 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 America called Off the Grid.[9] As of September 2017, Ventura is hosting a variety news show on RT called The World According to Jesse.[10] Ventura has repeatedly floated running for President of the United States on a third party or independent ticket.[11]

Early life

Ventura was born James George Janos on July 15, 1951 in Minneapolis, Minnesota,[12][13][14] 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 Slovakia; his mother was of German descent.[15][16] Ventura was raised as a Lutheran. Born in South Minneapolis "by the Lake Street bridge," he attended 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, during the Vietnam War, but did not see combat. He graduated in BUD/S class 58 in December 1970[17] and was part of Underwater Demolition Team 12.[5][18][19][20][21]

Ventura has frequently referred to his military career in public statements and debates.[22][23][24] 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."[24][25]


Near the end of his service in the Navy, Ventura began to spend time with the "South Bay" 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.[26][27][28] 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.[26]

Ventura attended North Hennepin Community College in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota in suburban Minneapolis during the mid-1970s.[26] 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 adopted the wrestling name Jesse Ventura.[29]

Professional wrestling career

Early career

He created the stage name Jesse "The Body" Ventura to go with the persona of a bully-ish beach bodybuilder, picking the name "Ventura" from a map as part of his "bleach blond from California" gimmick.[1] 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.[1][30] 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.[1][30] 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.[4][30] 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.[1] The duo held the belts for nearly a year, losing to "The High Flyers" (Greg Gagne and Jim Brunzell).[1]

Retirement and commentary

Shortly after losing the belts, the duo moved on to the World Wrestling Federation where they were managed by Freddie Blassie.[1] 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.[1]

Ventura continued to wrestle until September 1984 after 3 back to back losses to world champion Hulk Hogan, when blood clots in his lungs effectively 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.[1][31] Ventura returned to the ring in 1985, forming a tag-team with Randy Savage and 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 participated in a six-man tag team match in December 1985 when he, Roddy Piper, and Bob Orton defeated Hillbilly Jim, Uncle Elmer, and Cousin Luke in a match which was broadcast on Saturday Night's Main Event IV. 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 WWF owner 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: "It looks 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 fiancee had agreed to have a real in-ring wedding.[1]

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 (when Ventura was unavailable, "The Body Shop" was often hosted by Don Muraco). He began to do color commentary on television for All-Star Wrestling, replacing Angelo Mosca, and later Superstars of Wrestling, initially alongside Vince McMahon and the semi-retired Sammartino, and then just with McMahon after Sammartino's departure from the WWF in early 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 entertaining 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.[1]

However, Ventura would still occasionally give credit where it was due, praising the athleticism of fan favorites such as Ricky 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 Heenan and 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 belt 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 might "come out of retirement and take this dude out". Hogan and Ventura were at one point close friends.[32] 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 labor union in 1984.[32] Following a dispute with McMahon over the use of his image for promoting a Sega product, while McMahon had a contract with rival company Nintendo at the time, the promoter released Ventura from the company in August 1990.[33]

Ventura later served as a radio announcer for a few National Football League teams, among them the Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.[1]

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.[1]


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 November 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 asking for the amount of $2 million in royalties based on a fair market value share.[34] Titan moved the case to federal court, and Ventura won an $801,333 jury verdict on the last claim. In addition, the judge awarded him $8,625 in back pay for all non video WWF merchandising featuring Ventura. The judgment was affirmed on appeal, and the case,[35] 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.[36]

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.[1] Ventura would continue his relationship with the WWF by performing commentary for Vince McMahon's short-lived XFL.[1] On the June 4, 2001 episode of Raw which aired live from Minnesota, Ventura appeared to overrule McMahon's authority and approve a WWF Championship match between then-champion Stone Cold Steve Austin and Chris Jericho. 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.[1] Less than a year later, he would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame class of 2004 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.[1] 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.[1] 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 never did 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.

Acting career

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.[1] 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. He had 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 and last of these also starring Schwarzenegger. Ventura made a cameo appearance in Major League II, as "White Lightning". He appeared as a self-help guru (voice only) in The Ringer trying to turn Johnny Knoxville into a more confident worker. Ventura 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.


1987PredatorBlain Cooper
The Running ManCaptain Freedom
1989ThundergroundThe Man
1990Abraxas, Guardian of the UniverseAbraxas
1991TagteamBobby Youngblood
1993Living and Working in Space: The Countdown Has BegunDMV Testee
Demolition ManCryoCon
1994Major League IIHimself
1997Batman & RobinArkham Asylum Guard
2002The Master of DisguiseHimself
2005The RingerMotivational Speaker
2010WoodshopMr. Madson
2014The DrunkGovernor Littleton

Other media

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."[37]

In the late 80s, Ventura appeared in a series of Miller Lite commercials with Bob Uecker.

In 1989, Ventura co-hosted the four episodes of the DiC Entertainment children's program Record Breakers along with Gary Apple.[38][39] In 1991, the pilot episode for Tag Team, a television program about two ex-professional wrestlers turned police officers, starred Ventura and Roddy Piper.[40]

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.[41]

From 2009–2012, TruTV aired three seasons of the television series Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura.

Ventura had a guest spot on an episode of the 2012 rebooted Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series on Nickelodeon.

In 2013, Ventura announced a new show, Jesse Ventura: Uncensored, which launched on January 27, 2014,[42] and is now called Off the Grid, airing on Ora TV.[43]

Political career

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.[44] Ventura defeated the city's 25-year incumbent mayor and served from 1991 to 1995.[45]

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.[46]

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). During his victory speech, Ventura famously declared, "We shocked the world!"[47] After his election, 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.[48] 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.[49]

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.[50]

Political positions

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."[51] 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.[52] Nevertheless, Ventura enjoyed success with some of his initiatives. One of the most notable was the rebate on sales tax; each year of his administration, Minnesotans received a tax-free check in the late summer.[53] 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.[54]

In an interview on The Howard Stern Show, he reaffirmed his support of gay rights, including in marriage and military service, humorously stating he would have gladly served alongside homosexuals when he was in the Navy as they would have provided less competition for women.[55] (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.[56])

During the first part of his administration, Ventura strongly advocated for land-use reform and substantial mass transit improvements, such as light rail.[57]

During another trade mission to Cuba in the summer of 2002, he denounced the United States embargo against Cuba, stating that the embargo affected the Cuban public more than it did its government.[58]

In his book Independent Nation, political analyst John Avlon describes Ventura as a radical centrist thinker and activist.[59]

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."[60]

Wellstone memorial

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".[61][62] 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,[63] 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.

Political criticisms

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.[64]

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.[65] The proposed petition was dismissed by order of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Minnesota. Under Minnesota law, a proposed petition for recall is required to be reviewed by the Chief Justice for legal sufficiency, and, upon such review, the Chief Justice determined that it did not allege the commission of any act that violated Minnesota law. Ventura sought attorney's fees as a sanction for the filing of a frivolous petition for recall, but that request was denied, on the ground that there was no statutory authority for such an award.[66]

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."[67]

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.[68] 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".[69] 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.[70]

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.[71] 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.[60] In 2003, he again expressed interest in running for President while accepting an award from the International Wrestling Institute and Museum in Newton, Iowa.[72] 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.[73] 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.[74][75] 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."[76]

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.[77]

Potential 2016 presidential campaign

In late 2015, Ventura publicly flirted with the idea of running for president in 2016 as a Libertarian but allowed his self determined deadline of May 1 to pass. No explanation was given, but he expressed support for Libertarian Gary Johnson.[78] He eventually voted for Jill Stein.[79]

Potential 2020 presidential campaign

Ventura has expressed interest in running for president once again, but said he would only do so under the Green Party banner[80] "The [Green Party] has shown some interest. I haven't made a decision yet because it's a long time off. If I do do it, Trump will not have a chance. For one, Trump knows wrestling. He participated in two WrestleManias. He knows he can never out-talk a wrestler, and he knows I'm the greatest talker wrestling's ever had."[81]

Post-gubernatorial life

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.[82]

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".[83] In the 2012 Senate elections, Ventura endorsed King in his campaign for the open Senate seat in Maine, in which King won.[84]

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.[85] 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".[86]

In August 2005, Ventura became the spokesperson for BetUS, an online sportsbook.[87]

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." Like Paul, Ventura is known for supporting a more non-interventionist foreign policy.[88] However, after Mitt Romney became the presumptive nominee for the Republican party 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."[89]

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.[90][91]

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."[92] 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 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.[92]

Questions regarding 9/11

In April and May 2008, Jesse Ventura, in several radio interviews for his new book, Don't Start the Revolution Without Me, reiterated his concerns about what he described as some of the unanswered questions about 9/11.[93] 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.[94]

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, "And there it is again, you pay attention to memos on August 6th that tell you exactly what bin Laden's gonna do."[95]

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."[96]

Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura

In December 2009, Ventura hosted TruTV's new show Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura.[97] "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, Ventura traveled the country, investigating cases and getting input from believers and skeptics before passing judgment on a theory's validity.[98] According to TruTV, the first episode drew 1.6 million viewers, a record for a new series on the network.[99]

The first season was followed by a second season that aired in 2010, and a third season that aired in 2012.[100] After three seasons, the show was discontinued in 2013,[101] but (as of 2017) is still shown worldwide on satellite TV.

Books written by Ventura

He continued to write several other books after leaving office. On April 1, 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".[102] On, 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."[103]

Ventura also wrote DemoCRIPS and ReBLOODlicans: No More Gangs in Government, which was released on June 11, 2012. The book expresses Ventura's opposition to the two-party system and calls for political parties to be abolished.[104]

On September 6, 2016 Jesse Ventura's Marijuana Manifesto was released, making the case for the legalization of cannabis and detailing the various special interests that benefit from keeping cannabis illegal.[105]

Lawsuit against the TSA

In January 2011, Ventura filed a lawsuit against the Transportation Security Administration, seeking a declaration that the agency's new controversial pat-down policy violated citizens' Fourth Amendment rights and an injunction to bar the TSA from subjecting him to the pat-down procedures. Ventura received a titanium hip replacement in 2008 that sets off metal detectors at airport security checkpoints.[106]

The U.S. district court dismissed the suit for lack of jurisdiction in November 2011, ruling that "challenges to TSA orders, policies and procedures" must be brought only in the U.S. courts of appeals.[107] After the court's ruling, Ventura held a press conference in which he disparaged the federal judges as "cowards"; said he no longer felt patriotic and would henceforth refer to the U.S. as "Fascist States of America"; said that he would never take commercial flights again; said that he would seek dual citizenship in Mexico; and said that would "never stand for a national anthem again" and would instead raise a fist.[108]

We The People

On July 31, 2014, Ventura launched a weekly podcast distributed by Adam Carolla's "Carolla Digital" called We The People.[109][110][111] Guests have included Larry King,[112] Bill Goldberg, Chris Jericho, Roddy Piper, Donald Trump, Mark Dice, and leaders of the 9/11 Truth movement.[113] The podcast ran until March 4, 2015.[114][115]

2016 presidential election

In the 2016 election, Ventura endorsed former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, the nominee of the Libertarian Party, stating "Johnson is a very viable alternative... This is the year for a third party candidate to rise, if there ever was one."[116]


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.[22][117]

Salisbury described Ventura's Navy training thus:

[Ventura] took a screening test at boot camp to qualify for...Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/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.[118]

Ventura underwent BUD/S training and was assigned to a UDT team. Ventura received the NEC 5321/22 UDT designation given after six month probationary period completed with Underwater Demolition Team 12. He was never granted the Navy Enlisted Classification (NEC) 5326 Combatant Swimmer (SEAL) designation which required a six month probationary period with SEAL TEAM ONE or TWO. In 1983, eight years after Ventura left the Navy, the UDTs were disbanded and those operators were retrained and re-tasked as SEALs.

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.[22] 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".[117]

Former Navy SEAL Brandon Webb, the editor of the website, 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."[119]

Chris Kyle defamation suit

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.[120][121] Ventura himself has denied this instance.

Ventura, reiterating that the incident did not happen, released a statement on his official Facebook page declaring:

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 would tell a lie about an event that never happened.[122]


Ventura filed a defamation suit against Kyle in January 2012.[121] 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.[123] 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.[124][125]

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."[126]

The jury trial started on July 8, 2014. Testimony and arguments were heard until July 22, 2014.[127] 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.[125][128][129]

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.[130]

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 doubtful 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,[131] knock him to the ground, and not leave a facial mark.[132]

On September 4, 2014, attorneys for Taya Kyle, as executor of the Estate of Chris Kyle, filed a motion for judgment as a matter of law or a new trial with the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota.[133] 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.[134] This motion had to be ruled on before an appeal to the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals can be filed.[135] On November 25, 2014, in a 24-page order, Judge Kyle denied all of the motions from the Estate of Chris Kyle, writing that "[a]t 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."[136][137] On December 23, 2014, attorneys for Taya Kyle, as executor of Chris Kyle's estate, filed notice of intent to appeal the district court's opinion to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.[138][139] On October 20, 2015, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments.[140][141] On June 13, 2016, the appeals court vacated and reversed the unjust-enrichment judgment, and vacated and remanded the defamation judgment for a new trial.[142][143] On November 1, 2016, Ventura's attorney David Olsen filed a motion to appeal the Appeals Court ruling to the US Supreme Court.[144] On January 9, 2017, the US Supreme Court rejected this motion.[145]

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."[146]

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".[147]

On December 4, 2017, Ventura held a press conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota announcing he took a settlement from Harper Collins and would drop his lawsuit.[148]

Personal life


On July 18, 1975, three days after his twenty-fourth birthday, Ventura married his wife Terry.[14] The couple have two children: a son, Tyrel,[149] who is a film and television director and producer,[150] and a daughter, Jade.[149] 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 class of 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 Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, Mexico.[151] 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."[152]


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.[153]

In 2002, Ventura was hospitalized for a severe blood clot in his lungs, the same kind of injury that ended his wrestling career.[154]


Ventura has said that he was baptized a Lutheran.[155]

In 1999, Ventura said in an interview on NBC News that he considered himself to be a Christian, but did not believe he needs a church to attend.[156] 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."[157] In his 1999 bestselling 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.[60]

However, in April 2011, Ventura said on 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."[158] In an earlier interview with CNN in October 2010, Ventura denounced religion as the "root of all evil", remarking that "you notice every war is fought over religion."[159]

As governor, 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.[160]


  • I Ain't Got Time to Bleed: Reworking the Body Politic from the Bottom Up (May 18, 1999) ISBN 978-0-375-50332-0
  • Do I Stand Alone? Going to the Mat Against Political Pawns and Media Jackals (September 1, 2000) ISBN 978-0-7434-0586-7
  • Jesse Ventura Tells it Like it Is: America's Most Outspoken Governor Speaks Out About Government (August 1, 2002, co-authored with Heron Marquez) ISBN 978-0-8225-0385-9
  • Don't Start the Revolution Without Me! (April 1, 2008, co-authored with Dick Russell) ISBN 978-1-60239-273-1
  • American Conspiracies (March 8, 2010, co-authored with Dick Russell) ISBN 978-1-60239-802-3. Updated and revised edition (October 6, 2015, co-authored with Dick Russell) ISBN 978-1-6345-0545-1
  • 63 Documents the Government Doesn't Want You to Read (April 4, 2011, co-authored with Dick Russell) ISBN 978-1-61608-226-0
  • DemoCRIPS and ReBLOODlicans: No More Gangs in Government (June 11, 2012, co-authored with Dick Russell) ISBN 978-1-6160-8448-6
  • They Killed Our President: 63 Reasons to Believe There Was a Conspiracy to Assassinate JFK (October 1, 2013, with Dick Russell & David Wayne) ISBN 978-1-6263-6139-3
  • Sh*t Politicians Say: The Funniest, Dumbest, Most Outrageous Things Ever Uttered By Our "Leaders" (July 12, 2016) ISBN 978-1-5107-1417-5
  • Marijuana Manifesto (September 6, 2016) ISBN 978-1-5107-1424-3

Championships and accomplishments

Electoral history

1990 Brooklyn Park mayoral election[171]
Name Votes Percent Outcome
Jesse Ventura, non-partisan 12,728 63.27% gain
Jim Krautkremer (inc.), non-partisan 7,390 36.73% loss
1998 Minnesota gubernatorial election
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Reform Jesse Ventura 773,713 36.99% n/a
Republican Norm Coleman 717,350 34.29% -29.04%
Democratic–Farmer–Labor Hubert H. "Skip" Humphrey III 587,528 28.09% -6.02%
Green Ken Pentel 7,034 0.34% n/a
Others 5,365 0.25% n/a
Write-ins 776 n/a
Majority 56,363 2.69%
Turnout 2,091,766 60%
Reform gain from Republican Swing

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Further reading

  • deFiebre, Conrad. "Record-high job approval for Ventura; Many Minnesotans like his style, don't mind moonlighting". Star Tribune July 22, 1999: 1A+.
  • deFiebre, Conrad. "Using body language, Ventura backs Kerry". Star Tribune October 23, 2004: 1A+.
  • Kahn, Joseph P. "The Body Politic". The Boston Globe February 25, 2004. Accessed April 28, 2004.
  • Olson, Rochelle and Bob von Sternberg. "GOP demands equal time; Wellstone aide apologizes; Ventura upset". Minneapolis Star-Tribune October 31, 2002: 1A+.
Party political offices
First Reform nominee for Governor of Minnesota
Succeeded by
Tim Penny
Political offices
Preceded by
Arne Carlson
Governor of Minnesota
Succeeded by
Tim Pawlenty
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