Carole Baskin Slams Netflix's 'Tiger King' as 'Misinformation,' and Filmmakers Respond
In a rebuke of Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, Florida animal activist Carole Baskin — who figures prominently in Netflix’s latest hit — condemned co-directors and writers Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin, alleging that she was misled about their intentions. She also expressed disappointment in what she calls the “salacious and sensational” nature of the seven-part docuseries.
Over the weekend, Baskin posted her response to the website for Big Cat Rescue, the not-for-profit sanctuary she operates out of Tampa. Baskin claims the directors of the series approached her in 2015, “saying they wanted to make the big-cat version of Blackfish (the documentary that exposed abuse at SeaWorld)… and expose the misery caused by the rampant breeding of big cat cubs for cub petting exploitation and the awful life the cats lead in roadside zoos and back yards.”
Baskin claims the series did not do that, but instead “has a segment devoted to suggesting, with lies and innuendos from people who are not credible, that I had a role in the disappearance of my husband Don in 1997.”
Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness examines the life and crimes of Joseph Maldonado-Passage, a former country musician, Oklahoma zookeeper, gun enthusiast and big-cat lover known as Joe Exotic. Maldonado-Passage owned an exotic animal park and boasted of having the largest number of big cats in America. He was found guilty in 2019 for paying a hitman $3,000 to kill Baskin, who he considered his rival.
Maldonado-Passage — who alleges in the Netflix series Baskin killed her 60-year-old husband, Jack “Don” Lewis, and disposed of his remains by feeding them to her tigers and lions — is now serving 22 years in prison for the attempted murder plot.
In Baskin’s response to the allegations in Tiger King, she indicates Lewis “was gradually showing signs of mental deterioration” in the years before he disappeared and refutes “the lie that Don was a millionaire when I met him,” noting she helped him amass his fortune through real estate deals.
The statement also calls into question the accounts provided by several people interviewed for the series, including Don’s business associate, Wendell Williams, and his assistant, Anne McQueen.
Baskin also criticizes Don’s ex-wife, Gladys Lewis Cross, and his daughters, Donna Pettis, Lynda Sanchez and Gale Rathbone, whom she describes as unreliable and selfish. In addition, she alleges that her husband Don was associated with the mafia in Costa Rica, where she claims he went once a month – during Baskin’s menstrual cycle — to have sex with young women.
Baskin concludes her post admitting “Don was not easy to live with,” but reaffirming, “I never threatened him and I certainly had nothing to do with his disappearance. When he disappeared, I did everything I could to assist the police.”
Meanwhile, Maldonado-Passage — who recently filed a $94 million federal lawsuit from jail against various government entities and his former business partner — is “absolutely thrilled” by the response to Tiger King.
Goode tells the Los Angeles Times he’s spoken to Maldonado-Passage “quite a few times over the last few days and weeks,” that the felon is “absolutely ecstatic about the series and the idea of being famous” and is now “…trying to be an advocate for — no surprise — criminal justice reform.”
Goode also says of Maldonado-Passage, “He is in a cage and of course he’s gonna say that he now recognizes what he did to these animals. With Joe, we have empathy for him, but at the same time, he’s someone who really knows what to say at the right moment. I take it with a big grain of salt when he says he is now apologetic for keeping animals.”
Adds Chaiklin: “You can hardly talk to him without him mentioning the amount of press he’s getting. He says people are asking to see his Prince Albert and girls are sending him sexy bikini pictures even though he’s gay. … Joe definitely did some horrible things to his animals. He was very abusive to them and he shot five tigers, no question about it. But what has happened to him has also been hard.”
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The filmmakers also addressed Baskin’s critiques.
“I would just say we were completely forthright with the characters,” explains Chaiklin. “With any project that goes on for five years, things evolve and change, and we followed it as any good storyteller does. We could have never known when we started this project that it was going to land where it did.’
Added Goode: “Carole talked about her personal life, her childhood, abuse from her first and second husband, the disappearance of her ex, Don Lewis. She knew that this was not just about … it’s not a Blackfish because of the things she spoke about. She certainly wasn’t coerced.”
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