‘American Sniper': Michael Moore calls snipers ‘cowards,’ Sarah Palin rips …

20 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

American Liar.

Chris Kyle, author of the runaway bestseller American Sniper, was a military hero who killed 160 people during his four tours of duty in Iraq and is now the subject of an Oscar-nominated blockbuster.

Jesse Ventura, pictured promoting his book They Killed Our President on Oct. 4, 2013, in Washington, D.C., has some problems with another best-seller. In one tale, Kyle claimed he killed two carjackers at a gas station southwest of Dallas, and that his driver’s license directed local police officers who questioned him to contact the Department of Defense.

Kyle also claimed he traveled to post-Katrina New Orleans with a sniper friend, set up his gun atop the Superdome, and picked off dozens of armed looters. Kyle’s legal difficulties emerged from a subchapter of American Sniper titled “Punching Out Scruff Face.” In it, Kyle describes beating up a former Navy SEAL (“Scruff Face”) after the SEAL claims American soldiers deserved to die in Iraq. Early drafts of the book identified the SEAL as Jesse Ventura, former governor of Minnesota and famed professional wrestler “The Body,” but Kyle’s publishers removed the name for fear of a lawsuit.

It is just another grim, terrifying day for U.S. troops in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, and Chris Kyle, a rookie sniper perched on an empty building, has the unenviable task of watching his comrades’ backs. As they patrol the bomb-scarred street beneath him, his crosshairs zero in on a burka-clad woman and child who are heading towards the soldiers in suspicious fashion. Nonetheless, in a radio interview following the book’s release, Kyle admitted that “Scruff Face” was Ventura, and he repeated the claim soon after on The O’Reilly Factor.

American Sniper shot to the top of Amazon’s best-seller list, becoming a smash hit for its publisher, HarperCollins, selling more than 1.5 million copies by July of 2014. He has to prove the defendant made those statements with “actual malice”—that is, knowledge that they were false—or with “reckless disregard” for their falsity.

On July 29, 2014, a federal jury returned from six days of deliberations to award Ventura $1.845 million in damages—specifically, $500,000 for defamation and about $1.345 million for unjust enrichment. (In order words, Kyle unjustly profited from defaming Ventura, and so his estate must give Ventura some of that money.) Kyle’s widow, Taya Kyle, promptly filed for “judgment as a matter of law,” asking the trial judge to reverse’s the jury’s verdict because the jury clearly got it wrong. For the Kyle family, then, the legal tribulations surrounding American Sniper are probably wrapping up, and Taya Kyle will likely pay some damages but walk away from the affair with many millions of dollars left to her name. (HarperCollins’ libel insurance, in fact, will cover her defamation damages.) But for Kyle’s publisher, HarperCollins, the nightmare is just beginning.

The lawsuit explains that while Kyle is the one who defamed Ventura, HarperCollins played up those defamatory statements in order to boost its sales—and with reckless disregard to the truth of Kyle’s claims. During the first trial, Ventura’s attorneys uncovered records of HarperCollins’ negligence in fact-checking Kyle’s book, as well as evidence that HarperCollins specifically touted the Ventura story to drum up publicity. Kyle’s ghostwriters spoke with only one person who claimed to have witnessed the fight, a friend of Kyle’s who told a different version of the story that lacked Ventura’s offensive remarks.

And though Kyle claimed Ventura appeared at a SEAL graduation afterward with a black eye—where “everybody was laughing” and asking “Who beat the shit out of him?”—HarperCollins never asked a member of the graduating class whether they saw Ventura’s injury. (A photograph from the event shows a clear image of Ventura—with no black eye.) It gets worse for HarperCollins. But therein lies the brilliance of Ventura’s maneuvering: A jury has already determined that the Ventura tale is false and defamatory, meaning HarperCollins is legally barred from rearguing its veracity.

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