Coronado’s McP’s Irish Pub & Grill has long been a hangout for former and current SEALs.
  • Coronado’s McP’s Irish Pub & Grill has long been a hangout for former and current SEALs.
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It’s a Friday night. I’m heading into McP’s, the Coronado pub where Navy SEALs hang out. McP’s was recently in the news because Prince Harry turned up with his buddies while he was helicopter training in the desert, and because of something that may or may not have happened seven years ago.

It was a night of celebration and mourning at McP’s in October 2006 — celebration because it was during the SEALs’ annual get-together, mourning because family members and comrades were having a wake for Michael Mansoor, a SEAL who threw himself onto an exploding grenade in Iraq to save the lives of fellow SEALs.

One of the SEALs present was Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history. Another, at least according to Kyle, was Jesse Ventura, former SEAL, professional wrestler, and governor of Minnesota.

What happened next is the subject of a lawsuit in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Jesse Ventura disputes the claim that he got his ass kicked at McP’s back in 2006.

The late Chris Kyle, author of American Sniper, had 160 confirmed kills and one unconfirmed decking of Jesse Ventura.

Former SEAL Bill Burbank says of Ventura: “I’d tell him to drop the case.”

The questions at issue: Was Ventura at McP’s that evening? Did he insult the memory of a SEAL killed in Iraq? And did Kyle then deck him?

Kyle claims he did in his book American Sniper, which came out in January last year.

Ventura denies it ever happened. He is suing for damages and to force the publishers to excise the claim from the 2012 book.

In 2006, Kyle was not yet known beyond his circle of fellow SEAL team members. But after he left the service in 2009 and published his book in January 2012, he became an instant celebrity. American Sniper is still on the New York Times best-seller list.

So why would a bona fide warrior have to invent a story about popping an ex-governor, if it weren’t true?

In 2006, Ventura was riding high after his term as governor. He had two bodyguards with him wherever he went. Kyle had three years to go with the SEALs, wasn’t famous, but was on his way to making history, with 160 confirmed sniper kills out of 255 claimed, and four combat tours in Iraq and elsewhere.

Also: in 2006, Kyle was still alive. On February 2 of this year, a troubled Marine and fellow veteran from Iraq apparently shot and killed Kyle during a “therapeutic” target-shooting afternoon in Glen Rose, Texas. (A trial has yet to take place).

A year earlier, Governor Ventura filed a defamation lawsuit against Kyle for the claims he made in American Sniper about the confrontation. After Kyle was killed, Ventura decided to continue with the suit. He added Kyle’s widow Taya as a substitution for her husband in court. Ventura’s lawyers argued, “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.”

On July 19, Arthur Boylan, U.S. chief magistrate judge for the federal courts of Minnesota ruled that Taya Kyle, as executor of her husband’s estate, can act as a “substitution” for her deceased husband, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. In other words, the trial can proceed.

So, did it happen? That’s why I’m here.

I’m not hoping to find SEALs who were here that night, but maybe a bartender who might remember what folks here said about it.

No such luck. One of the two bartenders tells me the official response: No one among the staff knows whether such a confrontation occurred. Period. Have a nice day.

In a section of Kyle’s book with the heading “Punching Out Scruff Face,” he wrote about confronting a “celebrity” over disrespecting SEALs, the war, and the president (George W. Bush) that night in 2006. “Scruff Face,” Kyle wrote, served in Vietnam, spent his winters in Baja California, was against the invasion of Iraq, and described 9/11 as a conspiracy; the description matches Ventura.

Kyle later admitted on The O’Reilly Factor that he had been referring to Ventura.

As reported in the New Yorker, Kyle said he overheard Ventura talking loudly that night about why he opposed the war in Iraq. Kyle said he asked Ventura to keep his opinions to himself, partly out of respect for relatives in town for the wake for Michael Mansoor. When, according to Kyle, Ventura said that “we deserved to lose a few guys” over there, Kyle punched him, and Ventura “went down.”

It was after the O’Reilly broadcast that Ventura filed defamation charges.

“He never hit me. I don’t even know who he is,” Ventura told Piers Morgan on CNN. “This never happened. [This lawsuit] has always been about clearing my name and getting back my reputation. I was accused by this gentleman of committing treason; that’s very serious. In fact, it’s a capital offense in the military. It’s not about money; it’s about my reputation.”

Is Ventura uncomfortable suing Kyle’s widow?

“No,” he told Morgan, “because an insurance company is paying for the whole thing, anyway. It’s the insurance company of the book publisher. I have to sue her just because she is now the estate, since [Chris Kyle] passed away.”

A photo of Chris Kyle, who was killed in February by a troubled ex-Marine, hangs in McP’s shrine to fallen heroes.

The best insights into both men come from ex-SEAL Bill Burbank, a cheery, burly occasional visitor to McP’s and veteran of 17 years in the SEAL teams, with deployments from Grenada to Lebanon, and a survivor of many SEAL reunions in Coronado.

“I guess most SEALs might think there could be some truth to Kyle’s allegations,” he says. “I’ve known even admirals to get punched by their subordinates, once they’re out, retired. ‘You were a bum when you did this.’ Then a little fist-fight, a little punch on the jaw. I’ve seen that happen in the beer line at reunions. They tend to drink a lot at those functions.

“Also, I know one of our guys who was in the battle of Ramadi [in Iraq] when Chris Kyle was there. He said [Kyle] had been in the battle of Ramadi and also the Battle of Sadr City. Kyle was attached to a sniper unit. He was doing over-watch for several platoons. That means he was giving back-up cover for, like, SEAL Team Six, SEAL Team Three, SEAL Team One, SEAL Team Five. That’s why he got so many shots in. He was tripling up on his exposure. My buddy tells me Kyle was more of a ‘shoot first’ kind of guy, and then check later if [his victims] had weapons or were carrying anything [lethal]. He said [Kyle] would shoot guys for carrying ammunition or pretty much whatever. But all the casualties that our guys were taking in both of those [actions] were hard on him. He observed those people getting killed. So, someone in McP’s saying those things about the war being wrong and so forth could easily get to him.”

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Comments

Visduh Aug. 8, 2013 @ 12:15 p.m.

Correct me if I'm mistaken, but I recall a lengthy article in the Reader from as long as ten years ago that closely examined the truth of Ventura's claim to have been a SEAL. The piece, by a local retired Navy man, was a recounting of a methodical search of records and recollections of many people, and he concluded that Ventura was never a true SEAL, although he might have been honestly mistaken. (His conclusion was that Ventura progressed to the point of being a UDT specialist, i.e. "frogman.") He speculated that the SEALs who knew better allowed Ventura to make that claim without challenging it as a courtesy to Ventura, who had been elected the governor of Minnesota, especially since he portrayed them in a favorable light.

What makes no sense here is the notion of Ventura, if he were an impostor, attending an annual get-together of real SEALs. So, we might ask if he was even there for Kyle to punch. Not much about this incident makes a lot of sense, other than chest-beating by a former pro wrestler (and you can reach your own conclusions about that.)

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Visduh Aug. 11, 2013 @ 8:25 p.m.

We have been told that SEALs don't talk much and seldom if ever brag. I've been waiting for three days to see someone tell me more, or that I don't know what I'm posting. Nothing, zip, zilch, nada. Is that lack of a comment or two due to reticence, or just plain indifference? Does anybody care? I'd say no.

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BManJamz Feb. 10, 2014 @ 9:09 a.m.

As Don Shipley describes, the training was the same. At the end, they either assigned you to a Seal Team, or a UDT team--it wasn't because you were better or worse. it was where they needed you. In Ventura's case, it was UDT, 12.

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muttley March 5, 2014 @ 10:25 p.m.

Don Shipley is not the guy who decides who is a SEAL and who isn't. Ventura was never on a SEAL team and was never in combat. It came out at the trial that he was never in Vietnam and was never on a SEAL reserve team. Ventura lied about fighting in Vietnam, he lied about being a SEAL and he lied about getting punched in the face.

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Jeff_O Aug. 13, 2013 @ 6:32 p.m.

Taya's father is the mayor of Lake Oswego, Oregon.

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Wakerobin Sept. 1, 2013 @ 9:12 a.m.

I asked the same question of a veteran SEAL and he told me that Ventura, who was a SEAL, had been down talking the Iraq War though not disrespecting any SEAL. Kyle came across the room and shoved him, with the men around quickly breaking up the altercation.

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Cuprunnethrover Oct. 29, 2013 @ 7 a.m.

That probably is what happened. The scenario Kyle described seemed like a comic book scene, but the lawyers signed off on it with Chris' buddies backing up the story. Ventura has his own so maybe they can settle this tag-team style in the Ring.

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elvishasleftsandiego July 20, 2014 @ 3:52 p.m.

This is an interesting article. I realize that Ventura can be a handful when it comes to issues like 9-11, but I always found it hard to believe that he would intentionally bad mouth a group of SEALs, especially at a memorial. Since Ventura is suing because he claims the punch out DIDN'T happen, the lawsuit makes sense. If he was suing Kyle alone for bad mouthing him in his book and on TV, it seems more likely he would have dropped the suit once Kyle had died, especially if he is worried about his reputation. As for whether Ventura was a real SEAL, who knows and who cares? UDT guy or frogman, it doesn't matter much to me. I have known guys who have lied about their "Special Forces" careers in order to get an edge in competitive employment. Real Spec Ops guys don't brag. I like Ventura. He's honest and he seems sincere most of the time.

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2563pz Aug. 4, 2014 @ 7:21 a.m.

Real SF people freaking brag all the time. Hello I served in the special forces as a support soldier I never had a green hat but I served on that objective. I hear "they never talk about it" all the time from a lot of people that feel threatened by military men and there sometimes very true stories. I can't and don't talk to people anymore about my service because I find that they take that thought process on, here comes mr special forces telling stories. It sucks because that was the majority of my service to this country. This whole thing is sparked from the fact that spec ops brag, both of them involved both bragged both lied, so says a court of law. Ventura is a moron for just about everything he says. Kyle God look after him was a great SEAL and I hope more SEALs punch stupid people in the face for running their mouth about Iraq.

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JonDickerson Oct. 30, 2014 @ 2:39 a.m.

What a slimy guy this Bill Burbank is. Everything his says is shady without fact but just conjecture meant to see like Chris Kyle was telling the truth without actually saying that he did. Him comparing Ventura's service with Kyle's shows what a snake he is. It's completely irrelevant to whether or not they actually got in a fight, which is the root of the dispute. Also it shows a lot of disrespect to any of our soldiers that served their duty but wasn't assign to combat. Jesse served six years and it wasn't up to him if he faced combat or not, that's up to his superiors.

That seems to be Kyle's whole case, a lot of conjecture and no real facts. Which is sad because it means Kyle made up the story when he didn't need to.

You have to wonder why Kyle just didn't come clean then. Probably because he had told so many of his buddies through the years that he had punched out Ventura and it was already part of his "legend" that if he came clean, he would be admitting to lying the whole time.

Truth is Kyle was decorated enough and had done so many great things for our country that he didn't need to make up these kinds of stories, but for whatever reason, he felt he needed to live up to some type of superhero image which birthed the other fibs in his life like the killing of two Mexican car-jackers or shooting 30 American looters during Hurricane Katrina.

Probably he was also aware of all the negative fall-out from James Frey admitting on Oprah that he had made up certain stuff in his book, "A Million Little Pieces". That pretty much destroyed Frey's career, his book sales plummeted and there was even a civil action lawsuit against him on behalf of all those that bought his book. Kyle definitely didn't want to have to deal with that, and in fact, offered Ventura money to drop the case. Kyle just didn't want to admit that he had lied and have to deal with the consequences.

In the end, it's a small fib that came with huge consequences. Kyle probably didn't think ahead of time the kind of huge backlash that his made-up story would bring to Ventura, with Jesse feeling he needed to defend his reputation at all costs. Of course no one knew Kyle would be murdered in a year too. So it was a little snowball that grew much bigger than he could have possibly imagined.

In the end, no one won from this. Ventura was vindicated about the fight, but his reputation took an even worse hit from having to pursue his case against Kyle's widow. Kyle lost his life. Had nothing to do with the case, but the tragedy made this whole issue seem minuscule compared to him losing his life and I'm sure Ventura didn't want to have to go to court with Kyle's wife when he first decided to defend himself.

Still, I think Ventura had every right to clear his name. He wasn't the one that started this and when the word got out that he supposedly bad-mouth our soldiers and said the Seals "deserved a few", his reputation was completely ruined for something he never said.

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