Jesse Ventura: MS-NBC took me off the air for opposing Iraq war

Er, what? Minnesota’s other embarrassment jumped back into the news today when Jesse Ventura told the LA Times that MS-NBC bought out his contract and kept him off the year for being … too critical of George Bush.  No, I’m not kidding:

This is not your first venture into TV hosting since leaving the governorship. What happened to “Jesse Ventura’s America,” which ran briefly on MSNBC in 2003?

It was awful. I was basically silenced. When I came out of office, I was the hottest commodity out there. There was a bidding war between CNN, Fox and MSNBC to get my services. MSNBC ultimately won. I was being groomed for a five day-a-week TV show by them. Then, all of a sudden, weird phone calls started happening: “Is it true Jesse doesn’t support the war in Iraq?”

My contract said I couldn’t do any other cable TV or any news shows, and they honored and paid it for the duration of it. So in essence I had my silence purchased. Why do you think you didn’t hear from me for three years? I was under contract. They wouldn’t even use me as a consultant!

When you live in Mexico, your houses all have names. I almost named my house Casa MSNBC because they bought it. I was paid like a professional athlete, and I got very wealthy. For doing nothing.

Mediaite casts a skeptical note in its coverage, pointing out that Jesse didn’t set the world on fire in his brief stint:

Jesse Ventura’s America was on the air for less than four months, from October to December of 2003, and aired only on Saturdays. According to the Star-Tribune (article no longer online; see post #24 on the thread), the show averaged 249,000 viewers — a 39% bump up from the nature documentaries and such previously in the slot, but not exactly a home run. Whether MSNBC dropped Ventura for his political views may ultimately be known only by Ventura and the network, but he hardly had unimpeachable stats.

Still, that “Conspiracy Theory” show looks pretty cool. Maybe there’s a Casa TruTV on the way?

It took MS-NBC the better part of a year to get Ventura’s show on the air.  How do we know that?  As I blogged at Captain’s Quarters in 2003 — actually, in my very first week of blogging — Ventura’s show had a feature called “Dork of the Week” as one of its recurring bits.  And the first “Dork of the Week” was 18 months old:

However, I had the opportunity to listen to the “Dork of the Week” segment of the show on the radio yesterday, and let me tell you, it was excruciating. First of all, “Dork of the Week” is an epithet that you would expect from a middle-school boy, not a grown man, and certainly not a former Governor of Minnesota. Even if you get past that, Jesse can’t speak without sounding … well, like a dumb middle-school jock. The story was about a scientist who thought that by lowering his heartbeat (through yoga), he could swim with sharks and not be detected. He was spectacularly wrong and apparently is lucky to be alive. This story could have had some entertainment value, if you enjoy literally adding insult to injury, if it had been delivered with a wry touch, the sort of thing that Jon Stewart or David Letterman could do without even thinking about it. Instead, Jesse beat it to death in that clod voice of his.

The final straw is that this story is over a year old (April 21, 2002, to be exact)– so how could he be the Dork of the Week? Not coincidentally, MS-NBC has been working with Jesse for over a year to get this TV show in order. That means that Jesse has been practicing the same story for over a year!! Pathetic.

Needless to say, our former governor’s show didn’t last long, and for good reason.  By Christmas Eve of that year, Ventura got permanently shelved:

“I’ve decided to focus the majority of our resources on Monday-Friday primetime in 2004,” the cable news channel’s president, Erik Sorenson. said in a memo to his staff Tuesday night. “Consequently, the holiday hiatus for ‘Jesse Ventura’s America’ will continue indefinitely.” … Sorenson said that Ventura will continue to serve as a political commentator for MSNBC during the 2004 campaign season.

So why didn’t MS-NBC exercise its option to have Ventura as one of its talking heads?  Even MS-NBC wasn’t that desperate.  They hardly needed someone on the air whose idea of wit is “Dork of the Week.”  Even back in 2004, and certainly since then, opposition to the Iraq war or George Bush’s policies weren’t exactly a handicap at the Cable Network Olbermann Tanked.

If Jesse Ventura wants to look around for the reason no one wanted him on the air at MS-NBC, he just needs to look in the mirror.  While he’s doing that, maybe Minnesota voters can look in the mirror, too, and ask what possesses them to elect clowns to high office every ten years.

Update: Noel Sheppard has more on why people should be very, very skeptical of Ventura’s claims.