One of the major questions to emerge from Netflix’s docuseries sensation “Tiger King” is whether or not Big Cat Rescue owner Carole Baskin played a role in the 1997 disappearance of her second husband, Don Lewis. In the series’ third episode, Baskin’s longtime rival Joe Exotic alleges Baskin murdered Lewis and fed his body to her big cats at her wildlife rescue center in Tampa, FL. The popularity of “Tiger King” led Hillsborough County sheriff Chad Chronister to announce this week he was reopening the case involving Lewis’ disappearance and seeking new information into the matter. Baskin has published a lengthy post on the Big Cat Rescue website via The Daily Beast refuting information presented in “Tiger King,” as well as denying the theory she had something to do with Lewis’ disappearance and potential murder.
“[‘Tiger King’] 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,” Baskin writes. “The series presents this without any regard for the truth or in most cases even giving me an opportunity before publication to rebut the absurd claims. They did not care about truth. The unsavory lies are better for getting viewers.”
Baskin writes that “in the few years preceding his disappearance Don's behavior was gradually showing signs of mental deterioration,” which could have played a factor in his disappearance. Baskin was not familiar with Alzheimer’s when Lewis disappeared but has since come to believe that he suffered from the disease. While searching for clues around the house that could solve Lewis’ disappearance, Baskin says she uncovered papers that revealed Lewis was bi-polar and had a prescription to have an MRI at St. Joseph's Hospital.
“His behavior became increasingly strange,” Baskin writes. “He started refusing to use the bathroom and defecating outside. He brought in a homeless man to stay in our house. I rescheduled an appointment for him to see the specialist Dr. Gold. But he disappeared before the appointment date.”
As for the rumor she killed Lewis and ground up his body in a meat grinder, Baskin writes “that’s the most ludicrous of all the lies.” Baskin says Lewis’ ex-wife Gladys Lewis Cross became difficult to deal with after Lewis’ disappearance. Baskin writes that Gladys and her children “spread this rumor that they thought I had ground Don up and fed him to the cats. And the media loved it. The meat grinder shown in the video was enormous. Our meat grinder was one of those little tabletop, hand crank things, like you'd have in your kitchen at home. The idea that a human body and skeleton could be put through it is idiotic. But the Netflix directors did not care. They just showed a bigger grinder.”
“Don was not easy to live with and like most couples, we had our moments,” Baskin later writes. “But 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. I encouraged them to check out the rumors from Costa Rica, and separately I hired a private investigator.”
Baskin points “Tiger King” viewers to Robert Moor’s “Joe Exotic” podcast, which she believes includes a “much more fair and honest” look at Lewis’ disappearance. The podcast host spoke with the private investigator Baskin hired to look into her husband’s disappearance. Baskin writes the private investigator told the podcast that she was “courteous and there was nothing that jumped out [to him] in terms of her demeanor to make [him] think that she was hiding anything.”
“Tiger King” is now streaming on Netflix. Head over to the official Big Cat Rescue website to read Baskin’s blog post in its entirety.
SPOILER ALERT: If you are among the few who haven’t actually watched Netflix’s Tiger King docuseries, this review contains a lot of details about what goes down in the sad big cat saga.
With Netflix poised in the coming days to cash in and crank the base up a notch with more Tiger King, it's time to come out and say it: I hate the Red State porn that is the crash and burn of Joe Exotic
The initial seven episodes of this septic and shallow patchwork of trademark infringement, sex, guns, labor exploitation, song, drugs, mullets, betrayal, animal activism, revenge, and a lot of big cats may be much binged over these weeks of coronavirus lockdown, but that doesn't mean it's actually worth watching.
Now, I get it, I sound like I'm just a dour critic who hates anything that isn't prestige premium cable or aspirational. C'mon man, you want to say, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness is just so unbelievable, I can't look away.
I respectfully disagree, and in fact, propose Tiger King isn't just bad, but dangerous in a divided America persistently looking to reduce the other side to caricature.
In a presently ailing nation where TV is more voluminous and vital than ever, the truth is the March 20 launched Tiger King is a clawed white trash misery index. Gawking at some clearly fragile and damaged people like would-be reality TV star Exotic and their below the Mason-Dixon line antics, the series subsequently provides a cultural circus for those smug bicoastals under stay at home orders and screaming to rise up in moral superiority.
Essentially, the tale of big cat collector, self-styled Oklahoma zoo proprietor and 2016 Presidential candidate Exotic AKA Joseph Maldonado-Passage and his ultimately unsuccessful attempt to have rival Carole Baskin knocked off by a hitman hired for $3,000, Tiger King is in that context more a zero-sum game, literally and figuratively, than hitting the zeitgeist.
Obviously, Netflix are pretty damn good at gauging and dragging the public mood over the years, as the likes of the then phenomenon of 2015's Making A Murderer or 2018’s Wild Wild Country prove. Yet, for all the attention it has drawn, this unfocused murder for hire exploration of sorts emerges as a bastard child of Cops, a million Dateline segments from the 1990s and Fox’s short-lived Murder in Small Town X reality show from 2001.
Not exactly the prestige product that the home of Roma, The Irishman and American Factory likes to brag about at award shows. Then again, with the knowledge that the Romans sold out the Colosseum every night feeding Christians to the lions, the bottom line based House of Hastings surely loves the subscription sign up that the currently incarcerated Maldonado-Passage and the accompanying motley gaggle of...