“I thought, ‘I’m going to hear what hospital I’m going to,'” she told People last month. “But the officer looked at me kind of sad and said, ‘I’m sorry. He’s gone.’ … I leaned against the wall with tears pouring down my face and said, ‘Is there any way you’re wrong? Is there any mistake?’ He said, ‘They wouldn’t tell me to tell you unless they were certain.'”
Thus began this latest chapter in the life of Taya Kyle, one replete with courtroom battles, prying reporters and harsh criticism of her husband by some on the left following the blockbuster “American Sniper,” a biopic of her dead husband. But a tale that has already taken many bleak turns has now perhaps plunged into its darkest depths: the trial of the man authorities say shot her husband multiple times at a Texas firing range.
Taking center stage in the trial this week was Taya Kyle, who has in recent weeks shunned media as controversy over “American Sniper” erupted. On Wednesday, the day the trial began, Kyle wept from the stand, clad in a brown dress and sweater. “I’m sorry,” she said, The Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe reported. “I’m just nervous. I’m just emotional.” She said she had spoken to him that day, and he had been tense. “I said, ‘Are you okay?’ He said, ‘Yep.’ And that’s not common for him. I could tell something was up, and he was just quiet.”
For Kyle, the day was the latest moment of heartache in several years of it, intensified by the sinking reality that only after her husband finally returned home from war did everything come apart. “I will miss him every single day of my life,” she told People. “I was madly in love with him and still am. I miss him so much.”
But now, even as she continues to mourn the death of her husband, Kyle faces many battles. In 2012, before his killing, Chris Kyle had authored the best-selling “American Sniper.” The book described a confrontation between the serviceman and an unnamed “Scruff Face,” who said the Navy SEALs “deserve to lose a few.” Kyle said he “laid him out” and later identified “Scruff Face” as former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura.
Ventura sued for defamation. And won. The award: $500,000 and an additional $1.3 million for unjust enrichment. Ventura, who also sued publisher HarperCollins, was at pains to say Taya Kyle wouldn’t pay the award amid criticism he had gone after the widow of a murdered war hero. “The jury gave me what they felt I was damaged,” he said during his podcast, adding that an insurance company will foot the bill. “The majority of that money is going to my attorney. Again, this will cost the Kyle family nothing for the lie that was written about me.” He added they “hadn’t suffered one dime of monetary loss.”
But is that true? People magazine called a lawyer for the Kyle estate, and he had some reservations. “It is not true that the insurance company is currently agreeable to cover the entire judgment,” Ed Huddleston said. In fact, the Kyle family was still on the hook for $1.3 million.
And there were other legal expenses, the Wall Street Journal reported. In July, Craft International, which Chris Kyle co-founded and in May filed for bankruptcy, threatened to sue Taya Kyle unless she forked over some of the royalties made from “American Sniper.” The company said Kyle had written his books and done his book tours on company time.
“The books … were written by Chris during his employment by the Debtor and both books required much of his time during the workday,” said a letter to Taya Kyle, the Journal reported. “Chris’s book tours and promotion efforts for these books were done as part of his job at the Debtor.” It said the company “may potentially make demand … for the Debtor’s share of royalties.”
As the Journal noted, things got nasty. Craft International chief executive Steven Young questioned Kyle’s right to her husband’s stake in the company. It was alleged Chris Kyle purposely limited the power of spouses, citing “his belief that divorce was a very real possibility.” Kyle then struck back, suing Craft on the grounds that it was wrongfully using her husband’s name and likeness to sell its goods. (A perusal of Craft’s Web site indicates that any such references have since been removed.)
The ugliness of the back-and-forth was only an opening salvo in a broader campaign of derision aimed at her husband’s memory following the release of “American Sniper.” A Guardian editorial, in a story that collected 153,000 Facebook “likes,” called him a “hate-filled killer.” Journalist Rania Khalek described him as an “American psycho,” bound by “hatred, bigotry and enthusiasm for killing Iraqi ‘savages.'” Filmmaker and liberal activist Michael Moore called snipers “cowards.”
Around this time was when Kyle fled the growing controversy. “Her reps just called me and apparently due to some comments made by Michael Moore, they are cutting off her press,” reported the Star Tribune. “Because of this, any questions related to the current murder trial and the Ventura trial are off the table.”
Now, however, she has no choice but to face it. She’s there in court, before all the cameras, weeping over the memory of the deadliest sniper in American history.