Carole Baskin has undoubtedly had a rough couple of weeks. When the Big Cat Rescue founder appeared in Tiger King, she thought she was helping to expose the shady practices of zookeeper Joe Exotic. Instead, the documentary painted her as a villain, and the internet seems convinced that she murdered her former husband.
In her first interview since the series aired, Carole Baskin has spoken to the Tampa Bay Times, and unloaded on the Tiger King filmmakers. She said that she feels betrayed by the way she was depicted, and is currently living in fear, with drones flying over her Tampa, Florida home to get a look, and strangers sending her abuse and death threats.
She told the publication that she agreed to do the documentary thinking that it would focus on the wildlife rescue cause, and feels angry that so much time was spent focusing on theories about her former husband Don Lewis‘s 1997 disappearance. She said:
“I just feel so angry that people have totally missed the point. And the point is these cubs are being abused and exploited and the public is enabling that.”
“There’s almost no way to describe the intensity of the feeling of betrayal,” her husband Howard Baskin added.
Big Cat Rescue closed its doors four days before Tiger King‘s March 20 debut, because of the coronavirus outbreak. Since the show aired, though, Baskin’s security cameras have captured dozens of people lingering at her gates. She also said that she receives constant phone calls laden with threats and abuse, and it has begun to affect her wildlife rescue efforts.
She explained that she would often receive calls from vets and law enforcement about injured animals by the side of the road, but now she fears that many of these are hoaxes from people trying to lure her out. “I’ve had to turn my phone off,” she said. “I can’t tell the real ones from the fake ones because they’re always out of state numbers anyway.”
Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage, better known as Joe Exotic, is currently in prison for animal abuse charges, and for a plot to have Carole Baskin murdered. He is the main proponent of the theory that she killed her former husband.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department recently reopened the cold cast into Lewis’s 1997 disappearance, but there is no sufficient evidence to say that any crime occurred. No arrests or charges have ever been made in relation to the disappearance.
Prior to her Tampa Bay Times interview, Baskin made a lengthy post to her Big Cat Rescue website in which she refuted a number of key points from Tiger King, saying:
“There are not words for how disappointing it is to see that the series…has had the sole goal of being as salacious and sensational as possible to draw viewers. As part of that, it 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. 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.”