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Unrepentant Ventura deflects furor over Playboy interview

Minnesota governor: 'I'm going to continue to speak my mind'

October 3, 1999
Web posted at: 4:55 p.m. EDT (2055 GMT)

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, October 3) -- An unrepentant Minnesota Reform Party Gov. Jesse Ventura Sunday deflected criticism aimed at him over a controversial Playboy magazine interview in which he said organized religion was for "weak-minded people."

"I speak my mind," Ventura said on NBC's "Meet The Press." "If it offends some people, well, there's not much I can do about that. But I'm going to be honest. I'm going to continue to speak my mind, and that's who I am."

Ventura said the controversy over his Playboy interview was part of the "troubled waters" he expects to have to navigate for saying what he thinks.

"It's so simple to give the right answers, what (people) expect to hear from you, which is what career politicians do," he said. "Certainly, people won't agree with me ... but I hope they'll at least respect me for being honest."

Ventura dismissed a call from outgoing Reform Party chairman Russ Verney to leave the party because of his remarks to Playboy, saying it was simply an attempt by Verney's faction of the party to get him out of the way and "gain their stranglehold control of the party again."

The governor also reiterated that he has no plans to seek the presidency in 2000, even though he's "troubled" by the potential candidacy of Pat Buchanan. But he also said "stranger things have happened."

"It's like this -- what happens if you win and you don't run? Do you have to do it?" he said.

Weak-mindedness 'not necessarily a detriment'

In his interview with Playboy, the Minnesota governor and former professional wrestler is quoted as saying that "organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers. It tells people to go out and stick their noses in other people's business."

Asked Sunday if he thought priests, nuns, ministers and rabbis could be considered weak-minded people, Ventura responded, "No, I don't, not necessarily."

"And being weak-minded is not necessarily a detriment," he said. "It just means that you have a weakness and, therefore, you go to organized religion to help strengthen yourself. That's the context in which I talked about it. And for those people, it's OK."

Ventura said he considers himself a Christian and believes Jesus Christ is the savior. But he also said that "I don't believe necessarily that I need a church to go to."

"My religious beliefs can be by a lake, they can be on a hill, they can be in the solitude of my own office. And I believe that there's no set example of what people's beliefs should be," he said.

Ventura also defended a statement that organized religion has caused wars.

"What's happened in Ireland for years and years and years?" he said. "They're not fighting over potatoes up there."

Governor defends Tailhook remarks

Ventura, a former Navy SEAL, also defended his comments in the same article about the Navy's infamous Tailhook scandal, which stemmed from a convention where male aviators were accused of accosting several women in attendance.

The governor told Playboy that while he didn't condone what happened, he understood how it could happen. He also said military personnel trained to live on the "razor's edge and defy death" are "not going to consider grabbing a woman's breasts or buttocks a major situation. That's much ado about nothing."

On Sunday, Ventura said that "when I said 'much ado about nothing,' I was putting myself in the place of these particular individuals who defy death and who are asked to go out in some instances and kill people."

"And you bring liquor into a situation like that and in the atmosphere that happened there, bad things can happen. We create our own Frankenstein monsters, and then we're appalled when they misbehave or malfunction," he said.

Written by Richard Shumate.


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Sunday, October 3, 1999

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