Jesse Ventura served as governor of Minnesota from 1999 to 2003. Before his election to office as an independent, Ventura was already a national celebrity through his career as a professional wrestler and as an actor in such films as Predator and The Running Man.
Since declining to run for re-election, Ventura has hosted several television programs and written numerous best-selling books. His latest book is They Killed Our President: 63 Reasons to Believe There Was a Conspiracy to Assassinate JFK.
City & State Editor Morgan Pehme asked Ventura about his theory as to who murdered President Kennedy, as well as Ventura’s own presidential aspirations, including his reported intention to run in 2016 with Howard Stern as his running mate.
The following is an edited transcript.
City & State: At this point, is there anyone who doesn’t believe there was a conspiracy to assassinate John F. Kennedy? In your book, you cite a statistic that 80 percent of Americans do not think that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.
Jesse Ventura: Even the government said it with their second investigation. The House Select Committee in the mid-’70s came to the conclusion of a probable conspiracy. They turned it over to the Justice Department, and of course that paper is probably still gathering dust, because they do nothing, and people need to understand— if they don’t already—there’s no statute of limitations on murder. If you murdered someone 50 years ago, you can still be brought up on trial for it today. … Polls say that four out of five Americans do not believe the Warren Commission. Well, it’s our job to get that fifth one.
C&S: President Johnson’s picture is on the cover of your book. Do you think that he was complicit in the assassination?
JV: There were two conspiracies that took place: There was the actual conspiracy to murder the president, and then there was the conspiracy to cover it up immediately and thereafter, and that conspiracy is still going today. In fact, mainstream media, for the most part, is part of that conspiracy. … Often you get this [statement:] … “Someone would have talked in this 50 years, if there was a conspiracy.” Sounds logical, right? They have talked. Many people have talked. The problem is that mainstream media won’t cover it. I tell you today, they could come out with an authentic film of somebody there who filmed the grassy knoll, you could see the shot fired, the whole thing, and I guarantee you mainstream media wouldn’t cover it. You want to know why? On my show Conspiracy Theory we had the confession of E. Howard Hunt, of Watergate fame, [who] confessed to his son, Saint John Hunt, on his deathbed, still very lucid. He said, “I was an outside player in the C.I.A. It was called ‘The Big Event.’” He named David Sánchez Morales, Cord Meyer, all these intimate, inside players. He said, “I was a bench guy on it.” Now, I thought that when we aired that on my show that there should have been a headline in every American paper: “Hunt Admits to Involvement in J.F.K. Slaying.” Not a word. I was stunned.
C&S: So, just to be clear, do you think that Johnson was complicit in the conspiracy, or did he have an active role in planning it?
JV: That’s up to the reader and the people to come to that conclusion. Do I think he was? Yes.
C&S: You’ve said recently that you are contemplating running for president in 2016. Would your aim be to win or to call attention to some of the fundamental problems that you see with our country?
JV: I don’t waste my time calling attention to problems when I run. I always run to win.
C&S: Then why would you run with Howard Stern as your vice presidential nominee?
JV: Because there’s a method to my madness, and I’ll tell you why. I’m not shy about it. When I ran for governor of Minnesota I had a statewide talk radio show. The FCC made me go unemployed for six months, so I had no income for six months while my two opponents were collecting government checks—because they already held one government office and now they’re going for another one—so, clearly, they’re not doing the job that they were elected to, because they spent as much time campaigning as I did, which is usually 16 hours a day. How can you spend 16 hours a day campaigning for another job and still do the job you were elected to do? They’re not that important, then, are they? … I lost my job. Well, Howard Stern is on Sirius radio. They don’t fall under the FCC. We could use Howard’s radio show right up to Election Day as our major platform. Plus, Howard and I have already discussed it; I despise what our country has turned into: the concept of bribery. That’s what our entire election process is: bribery. You do that in the private sector, you go to jail. Public sector: status quo. I hate it. I made more money doing the job than I raised to get it. I’m the only elected official, I bet, in 50 to 100 years that can say that, in a major election. Howard Stern already said to me, “Leave the fundraising to me.” Good! Because I took no PAC money when I was governor, I took no special interest money, and here’s another thing for you: The four years I was governor I never met with a lobbyist once. My first day in office I told my staff, “Lobbyists are banned. Don’t even schedule them. I’m not meeting with them. They didn’t elect me. I don’t need them.” [Laughs] You see why they needed me out! I was destroying their jobs, because a lobbyist’s whole job is to gain access to that public official and bribe them, so that they can get what they want. That didn’t happen for four years in Minnesota. … How much do you think that Howard Stern could raise on his radio show if he went to his listeners and said, “We need 10 bucks apiece?”
C&S: Probably a lot.
JV: And 10 bucks isn’t going to get you much influence, is it?
C&S: With your views, if you ran for president, would you be afraid of being assassinated?
JV: That’s why I picked Howard. He’s an insurance policy. That way they’re not going to kill me and put Howard in, are they?