Q&A with Jesse Ventura
In a phone interview I conducted with Jesse Ventura earlier this week, the fomer governor of Minnesota and WWE Hall of Famer discussed his new show “Conspiracy Theory,” his relationship with Vince McMahon, his stint as Raw guest host and more.
What attracted you to “Conspiracy Theory?”
First of all, during my heyday of wrestling when we started flying all over the country, you spend a lot of hours in airports and on planes. You can call me an expert on the murder of John Kennedy. I read everything I could on his assassination. I found it very intriguing reading, much better than reading a novel by Tom Clancy or Vince Flynn because they’re simply making things up. In any type of conspiracy there’s always that element that this could be real and the people we are talking about were actually living and breathing at one time, and I find that very fascinating.
Will you get into the Kennedy assassination on the show?
No, we don’t at all. We kept all the conspiracies within the last decade. We don’t go back to Dr. King or Robert and John Kennedy, nothing like that.
What are some of the conspiracies you look into?
HAARP [High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program], which is a military installation up in Alaska that’s shrouded with conspiracy. We of course do the untouchable subject of 9/11, because in our country today you’re not allowed to ask any questions about 9/11, and you certainly aren’t allowed to ask the government any questions about 9/11, which I find very interesting. We also cover Big Brother. We do a thing on our Manchurian candidates, global warming, secret societies. We cover the gambit. Actually the problem arose that we had to limit it to seven, so really our battle was what seven do we want to do.
How extensive is your involvement with the investigations?
Oh, it’s very extensive. That’s the great thing. I’m not just hosting it, I’m out in the field. I went up to Alaska to look at HAARP. Now do I interview everyone? No. I have a team that does that. We have a war room and there’s five investigators that I work with. We all go out and get interviews and then we come back and we find out what we’ve learned.
Since you’re delving into sensitive subjects, did you get any pressure from people involved who said that you shouldn’t be poking your nose into this stuff?
No they didn’t really do that. Our U.S. government wouldn’t cooperate in any way, shape or form at all. Nothing. And I found that to be the most disturbing thing, the fact that apparently in our country today you’re not allowed to ask a question of your government and expect to get an answer from them. Apparently they feel they don’t have to give answers.
When you wrapped up your investigations, were you able to come to any conclusions?
They’re all left open. First of all, we don’t have enough [power] to get the answers. We have no subpoena power. We can’t put anyone under oath with the threat of perjury or anything like that, so we really have to rely on cooperation, and of course the government doesn’t cooperate. But you’ll find most of the conspiracy people love to cooperate because they simply want to be heard and tell their story, so naturally we levitate more toward them. Initially when we did the show, we were going to show both sides and allow you to pick which one you wanted to believe. But when one side won’t cooperate, it evolved into simply telling the conspiracy side. Can we find the truth and the answers. Not necessarily, but we do ask great questions that’ll make people think. And we do show enough evidence to back up what we’re saying.
So when all is said and done, do you voice an opinion as to which side you lean toward?
Yeah, most definitely. I do at the end of every show. I won’t tell to you now because I want you to watch.
Let’s switch gears for a bit. Was serving as governor of Minnesota overall a positive experience for you? Would you do it all over again if you had the chance?
Absolutely. There’s no negatives to it. It was a life experience beyond belief. I mean, the people I got to meet, the things I got to do. I met with Fidel Castro. I think to my knowledge that I’m the only elected official, while elected, that actually sat down with Castro. How else would I have gotten to meet Fidel Castro? How else would I have met the Dalai Lama? It was a remarkable experience, but I am not a career politician. I believe that’s what’s wrong with our country today. We have people making careers out of getting elected. I do one term and then I go back to what I used to do or I go on to a new job. Imagine that novel concept.
Is there anything that you wanted to accomplish as governor that you didn’t?
Oh, yeah. My biggest failure was not getting a vote on unicameral – one house state legislature. We don’t need two houses. Nebraska is the only state that has unicameral, and in their 70- or 80-year existence of it, they’ve never had a special session due to the fact that they couldn’t find a conclusion to their budget. At the state level, we do not need two houses. In fact it violates the Constitution because it’s supposed to be one person, one vote, but because you have two houses you have one person, two votes, because you have an elected representative and a senator. So that was my biggest failure, and that’s because these guys – do you think for one minute they’re going to vote on eliminating 67 of their cushy jobs? So you know what I was up against on that deal. You see downsizing all the time in the private sector but amazingly you don’t see it in the public sector. I’ll use Minnesota as an example. Do you know that in Minnesota we have 201 elected state legislators? That’s more than California, and yet they’re population is what, 30 million more than ours?
What accomplishment as governor are you most proud of?
I would say I’m most proud of the fact that I revamped the entire property tax system of Minnesota, and I also put in the first light rail system that now they can’t get enough of. They’re going to build them left to right of mass transit and it never would have happened had I not did it. You know what, I don’t need a thank you because I already got it. It runs right through my old neighborhood that I grew up in, and at my 40th class reunion I had three or four of my classmates who still lived in the old neighborhood who came up and shook my hand and said, “Governor, thank you for the light rail.” That’s all I needed to hear.
A few wrestling questions for you. I know you’ve spoken out in the past about the issue of wrestlers being labeled as independent contractors. Can you explain your take on the subject?
It’s a violation of law. How can [Vince] McMahon get away with calling wrestlers independent contractors when they can only work for him, he has them under an exclusive contract, he tells them when they’ll wrestle, where they’ll wrestle and whether they’ll win or lose. That’s not employment? The government don’t care because they get their money either way, whether the wrestler’s paying it or whether Vince has to pay into Social Security. They probably just figure, “Oh well, it’s just wrestling. Who gives a damn?”
What was it like hosting Raw last week?
It was phenomenal. It was fun, and as much as I speak against Vince for some of his business practices, I will say this: He treated me with tremendous respect. I had a great time and it was almost like getting in a time capsule. I was able to become who I was 20 years ago and have fun doing it.
As you said, you have been an outspoken critic of McMahon’s. I can’t imagine the two of you in a room together, much less working together. Was there any tension at all?
Not a bit. When it comes time to perform, we’re both performers. It’s much like professional athletes say: In the summer it’s a baseball game; in the winter it’s business. It’s the same thing. When we’re performing, it’s performing. Now when we’re negotiating, that’s business. But when we get on the camera, business is left aside. It’s called being professional.
Was there anyone at Raw who really impressed you?
I love Randy Orton. I think he’s a hell of a performer. He’s a terrific professional and I enjoyed working with him. If you want to use the old term, he’s a chip off the old block from his dad and his grandfather
Do you think you’ll have any future dealings with WWE, maybe even coming back on a semi-regular basis?
I don’t think so at all, because I live in Mexico half the year, and in fact I’d be there right now if it wasn’t for the debut and the publicity of this show. I will leave here next week. I live 800 miles into Mexico, where I surf, I live where there’s no electricity and I won’t be back until May or June. I’ve done that for five years now.
"Conspiracy Theory” with Jesse Ventura airs on truTV on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. beginning tonight. It is replayed at 2 a.m.