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Encore Presentation: Interview With Governor Jesse Ventura

Aired September 22, 2002 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, hospitalized in July with a blood clot in his lung. He comes clean on his medical condition and the astonishing decision not to seek another term as governor.
An explosive, no-holds-barred interview, just the way he likes it, is next on LARRY KING WEEKEND.


KING: It's always a great pleasure to welcome to LARRY KING LIVE the governor of Minnesota, Governor Jesse Ventura. Ventura is a member of the Independence Party. He's a bestselling author, and he has a new book out for kids, "Jesse Ventura Tells It Like It Is: America's Most Outspoken Governor Speaks Out About Government." We'll ask about the book and lots of other things. He's coming to us from his office in the mansion in St. Paul, Minnesota.

There's a story out today, Governor, that you're going to continue traveling to sell Minnesota products and promote tourism even after you leave the governorship if Tim Penny, the candidate you're supporting, is elected. Is that true?

GOV. JESSE VENTURA, MINNESOTA: Well, candidate Penny has asked me if I would do that, because he felt that I was very effective in bringing recognition to the state of Minnesota, that I did a great job on the trade missions. I went to Berlin, to Canada twice, to Mexico, to Japan, and finally to China. And it's something that certainly, you know, Tim will have to win the race and become the governor for it to become a reality. But it's something that I will consider, because I really enjoyed doing trade missions a lot and I enjoyed the focus I was able to bring onto the state of Minnesota and to help out in that factor.

So I'm not discounting it. Gee, news travels fast, because I just revealed that this morning when the governor of a state in Mexico was up here visiting.

KING: What if Mr. Penny is defeated but the governor who's elected asks you to do it?

VENTURA: I don't think that would happen if Penny doesn't win, because naturally I think the other two candidates, the Democrat and the Republican, will attempt to get as far away from me as they possibly can. I would figure that anyway. But, of course, nothing is beyond surprises in this business, without a doubt. KING: But you sell your state well.

This is the governor's first television interview since announcing that he won't run for reelection, since he's been hospitalized for a blood clot in his lung. Let's ask about that.

How are you?

VENTURA: I'm doing great, Larry. Thank you for asking. What the problem is, it's a reoccurring problem for me. I had it first in 1986, and then they happened again in 1993, and then again this year. And so now it's just a matter of I'm stuck on those blood thinners pretty much for the rest of my life because, you know, obviously I'm susceptible to it, it can be very dangerous when it does happen.

The treatment is relatively simple, but you have to take the right precautions, you know. So blood thinners and a baby aspirin every day. And, you know, I could be in worse shape, you know, that's not really that bad. It's just that, you know, you got to remember to do it right away when you get up in the morning so that you don't take too much or mess it up, and then you go in about once a month and they just check your level.

One of the positive things, Larry, is I can't sit down now and eat a big bowl of spinach.

KING: Why?

VENTURA: Well, because spinach and the dark green vegetables are very high in vitamin K, and vitamin K is the coagulation vitamin that causes your blood to clot up. And so that could throw me off. So the doctor told me, "Eat the normal amount, just don't overdue it ever."

KING: Is your blood thinner Coumadin?


KING: Yes, the world famous Coumadin.

Why aren't you running?

VENTURA: Because I just felt it was time to go back to the private sector. Four years. I did four years active duty in the Navy. I did four years as mayor of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. I could have certainly probably won reelection, but I chose to move on. And I did four years as governor, and, you know, time to move on.

I'm a great believer, I think that the system of government in Mexico is superior to ours, at least presidential-wise right now, because in Mexico when you're elected president it's one six-year term. You get the two additional years, but one six-year term. There is no running for reelection. And I think that's something we should adopt up here in the United States, is maybe one six-year term, and then after that you're out of the way, you're gone. And then that way people won't be making, "Well, what decision do I need to make to get reelected?" which in essence is, kind of, a downfall to our government system today.

KING: If everything, Governor, is in four-year cycles, what's your next cycle?


VENTURA: I don't know yet. Taking a break. You know, this is a job where I've been under a lot, probably more scrutiny than ever before in my life. Everything I do, from sneezing to going to the bathroom, is reported by the local media up here. And so I think I'm going to get away from it for a while.

I don't have anything planned right now. I leave office, the new governor, of course, will be elected in November and will take over, I think, that first Tuesday, the first week of January. And at that point in time, I think maybe a day or two before, you will catch me with some Dr. Martin Luther King quotes: Great God almighty, free at last.

No, I've enjoyed -- but let me say, Larry, that I've really enjoyed the job. It's been unbelievable. I wouldn't trade it for anything these four years. The education I received, everything about it has been totally positive, I think. But it's just time. I just felt for personal reasons it was time to move on.

KING: Would you lead an Independent Party movement for the presidency, as Mr. Perot did 10 years ago?

VENTURA: Well, that remains to be seen. You know, President Bush has a couple of more years to go.

And plus, I think for an independent or third party to be successful, you've got to be going, Larry, for an open seat. It's very difficult to come in and unseat a -- you know, a standing president, a standing governor or someone who's seeing reelection. I think it's much more easier to win when that seat is wide open like what I faced in '98. To unseat an incumbent is very difficult.

KING: But you're not ruling it out out?

VENTURA: Well, I never rule anything out, Larry, after 51 years. I've learned in those 51 years, you know, you have no idea what tomorrow's going to bring to you.

Am I avidly looking to stay in politics? No. I'm looking to move on and go to the private sector and continue with a private life. But then again, I said that after being mayor. I really had no intention of ever running for governor. And, you know, you don't know what fate -- you know, what role fate is going to take you.

KING: Because if you remember in '92, when the incumbent president, Mr. Bush at that time, ratings went down. I mean, his popularity went down. Governor Clinton was the new man on the scene, that's when Perot jumped in. So anything can happen, as you say; two years is a long time.

VENTURA: Yes, certainly.

KING: One of the reasons it was said that you were leaving is that, you are angered by the media reports about your son using the residence for parties. Is that true? Is that one of the reasons you are leaving?

VENTURA: No, not at all. In fact, to be perfectly honest, Larry, I had made the decision long before that. I just didn't feel that -- I wanted to wait for the right time and appropriate place to announce my decision.

KING: Was that a bum rap about your son?

VENTURA: Absolutely. He's 22 years old, Larry. I think in any state in the United States of America that that makes you an adult and you can drink a beer if you'd like one. Am I correct?

KING: Correct.

VENTURA: There you go.

KING: So he can have a party?

VENTURA: Absolutely he can. And, you know, I walked into the residence every day to put on to get dressed in a suit or whatever. I cross from one end to the other, whether I was living there or not. And I never saw any of these wild remnants of a party the night before that took place.

What you had were some disgruntled employees that were let loose that were -- their jobs were terminated because of an act of legislature. And we felt strongly that since I wasn't going to seek reelection there was no point in bringing them back to a job that was probably only going to last a couple of months anyway. So they needed to move on, as we're moving on.

And unfortunately, you know, the press is going to run with plenty of things that aren't necessary true or accurate because it's all about ratings and sensationalizing today.

KING: The book is, "Jesse Ventura Tells It Like It Is." It's written for children. It's very unusual and beautifully well done and well illustrated. And we'll ask him about that a lot of other things. He's with us for the full hour. Don't go away.


VENTURA: Now it's 1998 and the American dream lives on in Minnesota because we shocked the world!

CROWD (chanting): Jesse! Jesse! Jesse!


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: We're back with Governor Jesse Ventura, author of "Jesse Ventura Tells It Like It Is." It's his first national media appearance since his announcement that he would not seek reelection.

In the past you have characterized some members of the press as "media jackals." What do you mean?


VENTURA: Well, they are. They're like a frenzy. If you've ever seen the African jackal, they sneak along, Larry, and they wait for an opening and they generally attack when the advantage is theirs, and they're forever looming and sneaking around in the dark spaces and all that to where you've got to look over your shoulder all the time to make sure the jackals aren't around watching.

And so, it was meant as a bit of fun. And I found out clearly that most of the media doesn't really have a sense of humor when you turn it back on them. They love to poke fun at you, they love to go after you, but when the roles are reversed they get a little offended by it.

And I'm a good person at offending people, Larry, you know I wrestled, well I wrestled as a villain for how many years of my wrestling career, where my whole career was based upon offending people. And so it's hard to break away from that.

KING: Do you warn the young children you are writing about -- or writing to in your new book about the press?

VENTURA: Yes, I do. I warn them about the press in the book. I talk to them about how important it is for them to be up on government, the simple Bill of Rights, the Constitution, what our country was about. And I thought it would be a good opportunity.

And let me add, Larry, too, that I don't make a dime off this book. It's being done totally for charity, so it's not a profit- making thing for me at all in any way, shape or form when I wrote the book.

But I felt I had an impact on the young people of Minnesota when I ran. They came out in unusually large numbers to vote. And I think it's in all our best interest to try to continue that momentum and to take it even beyond Minnesota and take it to a national level and get young people involved in the process.

You know the last president election I went around to about five colleges here in Minnesota asking them if they were going to vote, and all of them said the same thing to me, "Well, why should we, because the only issues being talked about are Medicaid and prescription drugs and Social Security?" Well, with young people in their early 20s, those aren't high priorities.

So I tried to explain to the young people that the reason those priorities are there is because the politician knows that the elderly vote. The elderly are a huge voting block that feel it's their civic duty.

I said, "If you want to be heard, then you young people have to come out and start voting a lot more." I said, "The moment you vote, they will take notice of you, because then you become a player in the game of getting them, elected, which is their ultimate goal."

KING: By the way, when George Will had written that Minnesotans had awakened after September 11 and realized that they needed sound leadership, you said about Mr. Will on Minnesota Public Radio, "He's a mealy-mouthed, bespectacled little puke," and you'd like to smack him around.

Was that having fun too, or part serious?

VENTURA: That was not very serious at all. I'm just going after George in the same manner I felt he went after me, and, you know, if he can dish it out I hope he can take it.

Not only that, Larry, but remember I'm getting steps closer and closer to being a private citizen, and when that happens then you'll hear only the opinion of Jesse Ventura, and he won't represent a state, so I can be a little bit more gregarious and outspoken.

I just took offense -- Larry, I took offense to George's commentating, because he made it seem like I was some novelty and since September 11 that the people of Minnesota will now wake up and get back to electing career politicians who know how to lead them.

And I took offense to that, because I'm a former military man myself, I'm as patriotic as anyone and I think I've done an outstanding job leading Minnesota in the aftermath of September 11.

So on a serious note to Mr. Will, I took it as a slap from him, and I don't take slaps and so I'll shoot back at him.

And actually, the "slap him around" thing came from a New York Times article where it was their words, not mine. They put it in the context, "If you could take anyone into the ring, and bang him around a little bit, who would you want to do it to?" and I thought a moment and said, "George Will."

KING: I see.

VENTURA: That was my choice.

KING: By the way...

VENTURA: Be happy I didn't say -- wait, wait. Be happy I didn't say "Larry King."

KING: By the way, as a private citizen, you will be invited here many times to speak out. We always enjoy hearing you.

Speaking of September 11, where were you that day?

VENTURA: I was -- ironic, I had a dear friend of mine, a master chief that today is a master chief in the Reserves. But we served together when we were both in underwater demolitions SEAL team, went through training together and he and his wife had spent a couple days with me at the residence. And in fact, the night before September 11, we stayed up until about 2 in the morning on September 10, just, you know, chewing the fat like old Navy buddies do, or embellishing our old stories and all of that stuff and just enjoying each other's company.

And then we went to bed rather late, probably 2:30, 3 in the morning, and then I woke up, I hadn't watched any TV, hadn't paid attention, put my suit on, and when I walked downstairs the residence manager had this look on his face where it looked like the blood had just drained from his face. And he said, "Governor, did you hear?" And I said, "Hear what?" I hadn't heard a thing.

And he said, "Someone flew a plane into the World Trade Center." Well, Larry, I just assumed it was somebody, you know, attempting suicide, flying a little Piper Cub plane, or a single-engine plane or something, and then he explained to me, "No, it appears to be a hijacked 757." And then moments later, the second one hit, and then I was off to a speaking engagement and then we found out the Pentagon had been hit.

At that point in time, I had grave concern that -- like every American did, that we were under a very solid attack from a foreign enemy or of an enemy of some sort, and people really were paranoid, "Where is it going to end, is it just these three or is it going to systematically be 25 or 30?" So it was some, you know, very difficult moments there of apprehension.

KING: Did you speak that day?

VENTURA: Sure I did. Absolutely I spoke to the people of Minnesota that day. I informed them, as their commander in chief of the National Guard, our National Guard was up and ready, and we have one of the most outstanding National Guards in the nation here in Minnesota.

In fact, Larry, when the president -- remember the president was flying around in Air Force One to different locations. It was two of my F-16 fighter pilots that accompanied him from Nebraska back to Washington, D.C., and were flying on his wings.

KING: Are you expecting to do -- is anything going to -- are there going to be observances in Minnesota next week?

VENTURA: Oh, absolutely there will be...

KING: In two weeks, I'm sorry, on the 11th.

VENTURA: Yes, yes. We're going to have a very early one here in Minnesota. In fact, I believe we're going to plant a couple of trees here in commemoration of it at the very hour, at the very minute that it took place September the 11th.

And I personally, the press asked me what I would do the remainder of the day, and I told them I would probably go out to Fort Snelling later that day, because that's where my mom and dad, both World War II veterans, are buried today. And I think it'll be a day that I really get back thinking about my family and my heritage and my mom and dad on a personal note.

KING: All right. Back with more of Jesse Ventura. We'll talk more about his book, too. Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... the duties of the office of governor...

VENTURA: ... the duties of the office of governor...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... of the state of Minnesota...

VENTURA: ... of the state of Minnesota...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... to the best of my judgment...

VENTURA: ... to the best of my judgment...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... and ability...

VENTURA: ... and ability

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... so help me God.

VENTURA: ... so help me God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations Governor.

VENTURA: Thank you, sir.



KING: We're back with Governor Jesse Ventura of Minnesota. His book is, "Jesse Ventura Tells It Like It Is: America's Most Outspoken Governor Speaks Out About Government."

One other thing on leaving: You told Minnesota Public Radio that the salary of $120,000 a year entered into your decision not to run. Was that just part of the whole?

VENTURA: No, Larry. It really did. Over the fact that, you know, I get paid $120,000 a year. Everyone complains if I go out and get second employment. You know, I'm the only person in the world that when he holds down two jobs gets criticized for it; everyone else gets a pat on the back and say, "What an entrepreneuring, hardworking person," but apparently that doesn't apply to me.

I'll tell you why I entered into it is, because I'm looking forward to retiring, Larry. And I'm looking forward to doing it at an age where I can still, you know, really do a lot of things and not just sit around and, you know -- not that reading is bad or sitting around the house is bad, but I still want to adventure and go out and explore and do a lot of things. And by committing to another four years as governor, that limits the ability for me to make money and work toward that retirement. And that was just one piece in a great many. It was a small piece.

But on the fact that they don't pay you enough, it is true. I don't believe that people elected to these positions get paid enough money, and that's why you got special interest enters into the game so often.

I believe you should pay higher salaries, but on the same token, on the flip side, take away retirements. I'll stand on the record right now: Nobody that gets elected to public service should get a retirement because that's what creates career politicians. Take away the retirement, people are only going to do one or two terms because they're not going to be able to invest their time and effort into that length if they don't get a retirement. So take away retirement and benefits, but raise the salary.

KING: That's an area you and Mr. Will agree on, term limits.

VENTURA: Oh, yes. George and I'll agree on more things than that. I just didn't like his cheap shot, so I fired back at him.

KING: How do you account for the lower rating of approval in the past three years -- you're rating of approval in Minnesota?

VENTURA: Well, first of all, President Bush is going to experience the same thing, too. Approval ratings are just the way the wind happens to be blowing that week. And it's very difficult.

When I had an approval rating of over 70, 73, 74 percent -- I forget how high I was -- I didn't buy into that either, because it's going to change weekly as you're forced to make tough decisions. You have to stand up and make decisions, stand by them. And every decision you make, someone's not going to like it. And many people are only -- they're like one-topic people, and if you make a decision against them on that one particular topic that it might be, well then, your approval rating's going to suffer.

Plus, it's polling, Larry. If I believed in polling, I wouldn't be the governor right now, because there wasn't one poll that had me winning. And if you even look at my lowest percentage, add about 8 points onto that because that's how much I'll go up if I were to run. I believe if I'd have run again I'd have got over 50 percent of the vote. And in a three-way race, that's a landslide.

KING: Before we talk about accomplishments, what, in your own feeling, is the number one thing you would have loved to have done you didn't get to do?

VENTURA: Get unicameral or single-house on the ballot so that the people of Minnesota could have a choice of what their government would be.

KING: Who has that, Nebraska?

VENTURA: Nebraska has it. Whether they have the bicameral system that's in all the 49 states or they should at least be educated on the unicameral, or single house.

KING: Why do you like that?

VENTURA: Why do I like it? Because of accountability. Everything will get voted on three times. You don't have the power put to these committee chairs where a committee chair can simply shelf a bill and never let it see the light of day simply because they disagree with it. I don't believe that's democracy. I don't believe they should have that type of power to one person.

Larry, the unicameral, every legislator gets one priority bill which guarantees it a conference committee meeting and a full-floor vote, and that brings accountability to where they have to be accountable. Right now, you can be in one house, you can say you support something knowing full well the leadership in another house is going to kill it so you won't really have to vote on it and you won't really have to show the people where you stand.

KING: What was your number one accomplishment?

VENTURA: Oh, there were so many of them. It would be hard to say which was number one, but I think I shined my brightest when I was on my trade mission to China. I thought that I was at my very best right there. It was a tremendous honor to represent the state of Minnesota in dealing with a huge, huge country like China.

The people of China was nothing like I expected. When I got there, the people were terrific, so friendly, and they're a place that certainly I was the only governor who testified in front of Congress for full support of admitting China into the WTO and normalizing trade with them. And I feel that way today.

And because of that, the Chinese government, in some ways, I guess, felt a little indebted to me, so they went above and beyond the call of duty with me in many ways, and it was a great highlight.

Meeting the Dalai Lama was a tremendous highlight.

KING: By the way...

VENTURA: Taxes were never raised on my watch. In four years, there was never a tax raise, they were all lowered.

KING: You're going to Cuba, right?

VENTURA: So those are a few of the accomplishments.

KING: You're going to Cuba at the end of September.

VENTURA: I'm going to Cuba at the of September.

KING: For? VENTURA: For three or four days on a trade mission.

KING: You want to...

VENTURA: It's time to change our policy on Cuba, Larry. I mean, we've had this -- we're the only country in the world that has a boycott of them, a trade embargo of them. It has not worked because it was put into place to get rid of Castro. Well, the last time I checked, Castro's made it through seven or eight presidents now. So it's clearly -- it doesn't work. So therefore, it's time to try something new, and I believe that they way you change government is by having a relationship with them. You don't change them by putting a wall up and shaking your finger at them.

KING: Do you have thoughts on what everybody in politics and out of politics is talking about, a possible invasion of Iraq?

VENTURA: Well, to be perfectly honest, I've thought about it, but not a great deal. I've had plenty to deal with myself.

I don't -- I'm not privy to all of the intelligence and the information that the president has to really counter his feelings on it. So really, to be honest -- I'm not trying to avoid the question, Larry, but I don't know if my opinion carries much weight right now on it.

KING: Should Congress be asked to approve it?

VENTURA: I think so. I think in this case, yes, they should be -- that they should be. Because you're going to commit our troops there, you're going to commit our foreign policy there, and you're going to create a lot of enemies and a lot of -- you know, there'll be a lot of unrest throughout the world if we do go in with a full invasion into Iraq.

And so I think that Congress, yes, should be brought in and it should be voted on so that clearly, if the president's going to do it, he should have a mandate from Congress and the American people to do so.

KING: Our guest is Jesse Ventura. The book is "Jesse Ventura Tells It Like It Is: America's Most Outspoken Governor Speaks Out About Government." We'll be back with lots more with Governor Ventura.

Tomorrow night one of our guests, ABC News' Diane Sawyer. We'll be right back.


KING: We're back with Governor Jesse Ventura.

Before we talk about the book, what do you make of Enron and all the others?

VENTURA: Well, you know, I'm taking it in the shorts just like everyone else. You know, I looked at my 401(k) and in a three-month period of time it dropped $40,000. But I'm not particularly over- worried, because I'm not due to collect mine for a long time anyway, and I think it will build itself back up again.

But it's been disgraceful that, you know, the private sector and the CEOs have behaved in this manner of cooking the books, of putting forth fraudulent numbers while they get their, you know, big umbrellas to retire. And I personally think they should be tracked down and any one of them that did it, if they broke the law, should be put in jail for it.

You know, my father used to always say to me that, you know, if a guy goes out to steal a loaf of bread to feed his family they'll give him 10 years, but a guy can do white-collar crime and steal the money of thousands and he'll get probation and a slap on the risk. And it's time to put this in perspective to what it's done not only to the companies involved, but to the United States of America, all our citizens, to our standing amongst the world.

These people that did this stuff need to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law so that it won't happen again, Larry, so that the next time somebody thinks about fraudulent numbers in a book they'll think twice before they go ahead and do it.

KING: By the way, one other thing on Minnesota: Congressman Penny, who I know very well, former Democratic congressman, why is he going on the independent route?

VENTURA: Because he's a centrist. He's like I am. He sees both of these parties splitting off to the extreme left and the extreme right. And you see the major block of voters are being left to choose one or the other. And we just want to show that when given a serious centrist, or what we call the common sense center, when you've got a viable candidate there you can defeat either the Republican or Democrat.

And I love it, Larry, because they all said that when I wasn't running the third-party movement was dead. Well, since Congressman Penny has quit the Democrats, joined the Independence Party, we've had four or five more defections take place since then.

So in Minnesota, we are the mecca of the third-party movement. The world will continue to watch Minnesota. And when Tim Penny gets elected, they'll know that it wasn't just my celebrity that did it; that this is a real movement. And I've said that all along.

KING: Does he have a good chance?

VENTURA: It wasn't just my celebrity.

He's got a darn good chance. The rumors I'm hearing is, he's leading in the polls right now; that he's in first place right now.

KING: All right. Writing a book on government for kids. Previously you had two major best sellers, "I Ain't Got Time to Bleed," and "Do I Stand Alone." Now, a book for kids, "Jesse Ventura Tells it Like it Is." Why for kids?

VENTURA: Well, again, Larry, I want kids involved. I want them to understand the reality of government, what it really is from someone who served in it.

You know, yes, they can read about certain elements of government in a text book, but I wanted them to hear it directly from me. I want them to pay attention. I want them to become involved, because the one thing I've learned is that government is at its best when there's citizen involvement. Government is at its worst when you have apathy from its citizens.

And we need to engage and bring those young people in. They have good ideas. They're bright. And they are our future. Some day we'll be relying on them to make the decisions for our government. And I think the sooner they're involved in it, the better off we will be in the long run.

And if I can do something, step forward, write a book -- and again, Larry, I want to say, I make no money off this book. The first two, yes, I made money off those. But this book, I get nothing. All the profits go to charity, and to me, an educating factor for young people. And if a person like me can talk to them at their level, tell it like it is, get them involved, I think we're all for the better.

KING: And all your proceeds go to charity. It's done in a very slick fashion, very well illustrated, a lot of pictures, and you deal with various amount of subjects to -- and a lot on the Constitution.

Why do you think, this has been said often, would -- the best of us does not run for office?

VENTURA: I think because a great deal of it, Larry, is again the salary. I mean if you're going to offer somebody that can make $250,000 in the private sector, why would they take a half-pay cut to come and do this?

But I think even more so is the scrutiny of the media today, to where they'll go after your family, they'll go after your kids, there is nothing sacred in the media today, they're out for ratings. And it's dangerous, Larry, when media starts to create the news rather than just simply get facts on the news.

You know, you hear all this about Hollywood today and violence in the movies, well, I would tell you this, I think it's much more, I would be more likely to not allow my kids to watch the evening news, because that's real violence. It's not scripts, it's not actors, it's not imagination. What you have on the evening news is actual, real violence. And so, you know, how can they come back then and criticize Hollywood or politicians criticize Hollywood when the strongest violence you have out there is the 6 p.m. news?

KING: Do you want them -- you don't want then to be namby-pamby though?

VENTURA: No, not a bit. But I don't want them creating. I don't want them going out and attempting to give their own personal -- it's one thing to editorialize, but on the evening news they shouldn't be editorializing, they should be giving you facts and allowing you to make, as a individual, to take those facts and come to your own conclusion.

KING: Do you think there is a network bias?

VENTURA: Absolutely, no doubt about it. It's liberal, too.

KING: So you can see the slant -- even though one would say that Jesse Ventura has a lot of liberal aspects to him...


KING: ... you can see the news at night and say -- and read into it a liberal thing?

VENTURA: Yes. And I talk about it in my book, how to watch for it. How to look for it, what signs, what you hear, and things like that.

Well, I thought Bernard Goldberg's book "Bias" was phenomenal, and I highly recommend that book to everyone should read it.

And the thing that tells me, Larry, is when they polled the media, 88 percent of them voted Democrat. Excuse me, I've never seen a Democrat win with 88 percent of the vote. Never.

KING: We'll take a break and be back with Jesse Ventura on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


KING: We're back with Governor Jesse Ventura. His book, "Jesse Ventura Tells It Like It Is."

Are your views about separation of church and state still as strong, so that you think religion and the state have no place together? In fact, a proclamation was signed in your state that you had to withdraw, right, calling it Christian Heritage Week.

VENTURA: No, not really. It went out. We attempted to withdraw it, but the secretary of state let it go out anyway, and then, of course, called the media right away, you know, to turn it into a story, because when you're a political hack you'll do that type of thing.

No, Larry, I think that religion and government can work hand in hand. There's a role for both. Certainly in your welfare, in your helping of people, I think that the religious or the faith communities in many cases do it much better than government can. And so there's a role where the two of us must meet.

But I'm also a very strong believer in the separation of two; that you can't -- because religion fails to persuade in many cases, it should not come to government then to legislate, you know. And you've got to keep that line in there.

There is no one religion that is right, and no one can prove that -- to prove it to me or prove it to anyone else, what one's beliefs are.

KING: Do you share the views that the federal court declaring that when the Pledge of Allegiance is in a public building or a school, "under God" should not be included?

VENTURA: Not necessarily. I take the bigger picture and say that government shouldn't be mandating any of its citizens to say pledges. You know, patriotism to your country is something that comes from your heart. It should be taught to you by your parents. It shouldn't be taught to you by a government institution like the public schools, necessarily. I think that, you know, people should want to say the pledge because they desire to say it, not to have a government tell you, "You have to say it." To me, that defeats the purpose of saying it in the first place.

KING: So oppressive government -- I think all oppressive governments have required pledges.

VENTURA: Yes, exactly. I mean, take a look at history. Any government that starts making their young people sit and recite over and over again how much they love that particular government, what do those governments usually end up? And I believe the United States is a different place.

Just like flag burning, you know. Flag burning troubles me, but still, if the person bought the flag, it's their private property.

KING: All right, switching gears, your team is in first place. They're going to be in the playoffs if there are playoffs. They've had an astounding year, considering the fact they wanted to take them away -- the Minnesota Twins. Are they going to be playing ball on Saturday or not?

VENTURA: Yes, Larry, your guess is as good as mine. I think that if the owners and the players have any thread of common sense in their heads, they'll be playing Saturday. Because my prediction is, if baseball goes on strike this week, it could really be the demise of what was considered America's favorite pastime for generations upon generations. Because I don't see the public sitting back and taking a soft attitude on this one. I see them getting extremely angry and I see baseball having a very difficult time recovering from it if they make that choice.

I know that -- you know, I can't sit in their shoes, but if I were a baseball player, where the average salary was $2.5 million per player, I'd be pretty hard pressed to say, "You know what? I'd rather go load trucks for a while than to play a child's pastime game."

KING: When you appeared before Congress right after or before Bud Selig, the commissioner, though, you were pretty rough on the owners, too. VENTURA: Sure I am, because I think that the owners aren't being fully truthful on all the money they're making. You know, I can give you an example: Vince McMahon and the WWE, it's called now -- it was the WWF -- but Vince -- and I know this for a fact -- Vince makes as much money on his merchandise as he does on his live events. And I question whether the owners are declaring their merchandise royalties, because they put those into separate companies that don't deal with the actual gate attendance and all that stuff.

And the point being, Larry, it's a simple premise in capitalism: You can't pay your employees more than you make. And if baseball ownership keeps throwing out these extravagant salaries, and they can't make that much money, well, then they've got to suffer the consequences for their errors. Everyone else in the private sector would have to, and not be bailed out by more stadiums and more public subsidies revenues throwing at them.

KING: Are they going to get a new stadium for Minnesota?

VENTURA: Thrown at them. If they go on strike, I doubt it.

KING: If they don't, will they?

VENTURA: If they don't go on strike, I think the opportunity is definitely there that they could get one.

KING: But they never will do away with the team, right? That's history.

VENTURA: Well, they still might. I personally think Selig should contract the Milwaukee Brewers, myself.

KING: The team...

VENTURA: I mean, they're in last place. Yes. They're in last place, they've got a brand new stadium, the roof still leaks, they're not drawing hardly as much as the Twins in this new stadium, so what's the profit of the Milwaukee Brewers?

KING: Was that a disturbing day for you that day in Congress when you heard them testify?

VENTURA: No, not a bit. In fact, I found it in many ways rather humorous by the end of the day. It was like watching two spoiled brats fight, where they got everything anyone could ask for in this world. They've all been pampered, and babied and treated with mink gloves, if you want to say that, on their hands. And yet they sit and bicker over who's going to get the richest. I guess it goes back to the old thing, Larry, that you always hear, he who has the most toys at death wins.

KING: Aren't you going to miss all this, Jesse, come on? Governor, I'm sorry.

VENTURA: Oh, yes. Larry, I'll miss some of it, certainly. You know what I'll miss the most, to be honest with you? I'm going to miss the priority parking.


You know, that wherever I pull into, I don't have to worry about a parking spot, I can park right in front of the building, no matter what building it is -- be it a stadium, be it a hotel, be it anything. That part I'll miss the most.

KING: And nobody sits in front of you at games, right? You get the front row.

VENTURA: No, I'm a regular Timberwolves season ticket holder, and I sit in the sixth row. So I've actually got six people in front of me.

But no, I'll -- and I'll miss in some ways my security detail, I'll tell you that, because I've really grown a great friendship with them, the people that protect me on a day-to-day basis. They're tremendous Minnesota state troopers who do their job as professionally and as great as they possibly can. I'll miss them.

There's parts of this job I'll miss, the accomplishments, but time goes on, you go on, and it's time for me to move on.

KING: And we have a few minutes left with Jesse Ventura, and we'll spend them with him. The book is, "Jesse Ventura Tells It Like it Is." We'll be right back with our remaining moments.

Don't go away.


VENTURA (singing): Because it's one, two, three strikes, you're out, at the old ball game!



KING: We're back with our remaining moments with Jesse Ventura.

Some hopscotch, some quick things. You're known for physical fitness; what do you think about America as the land of the unfit?

VENTURA: Well, you know, times have changed, Larry, where kids no longer play in the backyard, they don't climb trees anymore, they don't do the things that we used to do physically as kids. It's a much more computer-oriented society now, where kids are going to get locked on that computer all day long and play computer games and live through that computer.

And I think it can be dangerous in a way, because, you know, mental fitness and physical fitness to me go hand-in-hand. And people need to remember that this body you have, you have to spend your whole life in it. You can't trade it in for a new one. You know, certainly you can get some repairs done on it, but they usually are quite painful.

But people should -- and the expense wise, Larry. By the choices we make -- you know, health care is running amuck today. But a lot of that health care can be directly attributed to choices we make as individuals and things we do in our life that cost our health. And physical fitness, you only got to do a half hour a day. Everyone should find time for that.

KING: Mayor Bloomberg in New York is angering smokers. He's proposing a ban on smoking in all bars and restaurants. Do you favor that?

VENTURA: Well, I find that steps over the boundary, I think, of the public-private sector in a lot of ways. I think that, you know, it should be more left up to the individual establishment to determine whether they want smokers or don't.

I've also heard that since they did it in California, restaurant business is up. Well, if the business is going to go up by not allowing smoking, well, then you'd think the business owners would make the business owners would make that decision on their own.

I just find it difficult when government -- what's next, Larry, smoke-free neighbors? You know, is that what we're in line for next?

It falls back to what I govern by, and that is this: You can't legislate stupidity. People are going to do stupid things. And you can't rise up every time someone does something stupid and pass a law for the masses to stop the stupidity. We're not perfect. We're going to do stupid things.

KING: I don't mean this as a direct correlation to your answer: Do you think Al Gore's going to run again? It sounds like a segue.

VENTURA: He seems like it. Well, no. I ran into Vice President Gore on my trade mission to China, and he seems pretty motivated. And, you know, I don't know what else is going on in his life, but I, kind of, get the feeling he might. But then again, you'd have to ask Vice President Gore himself; he's the only one that'll know for sure.

KING: You're going to be in a movie this summer. Are you going to go do some show business work?

VENTURA: I'll do whatever transpires that rears its head, whatever.

What do old politicians do, Larry? Maybe I should ask you that?

KING: They fade away sometimes.

VENTURA: What are we doing?

KING: They write books. You've got a book now for kids.

VENTURA: Somehow, Larry, I don't think I'll fade away.

KING: Somehow neither do I. Would you go back to wrestling?

VENTURA: Somehow I get the feeling.

KING: Would you wrestle again?

VENTURA: No. Oh, gosh, no. I'm 51 years old. That's a young man's game, Larry. I'm on blood thinners now. I can't be going out there getting body slammed anymore. It's a rugged business. You got to be young. You got to be in terrific shape to get through the travel, be in the ring, everything that goes along with it.

No, no, no. The only way I'd ever see wrestling again would be behind a microphone where it's safe.

KING: The mansion's open again, right?

VENTURA: Yes. The governor's residence opened up about a week ago, but I'm not inhabiting it and I don't intend to, because I've only got four months to go and we had already moved out. And so my feelings were my governorship ended at the point I moved out of the residence, other than, naturally, doing the job I'm required to do until the very last day.

But I'm back moved into my ranch now and we're very comfortable right there.

KING: Jesse, your severest critic would have to admit, you never have a dull moment with Governor Jesse Ventura. Best of luck with the book. Love to your family and thanks very much for being with us.

VENTURA: Thank you very much, Larry, it's always a pleasure. And keep up your great work of, you know, getting people on and finding out, have them tell it like it is.

KING: Thank you so much.

Jesse Ventura. The book is "Jesse Ventura Tells It Like It Is: America's Most Outspoken Governor Speaks Out About Government."


KING: Never any problem getting Jesse Ventura to tell it like he sees it.

Tomorrow night, have we got something for you -- Christopher Reeve and his wife, Dana. His recovery is becoming something of a medical miracle. They'll tell us about it live tomorrow night, with your phone calls.

Until then, good night.



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