The true-crime documentary follows big cat breeders and trainers across the country, namely, Joseph Maldonado-Passage — who goes by the stage name Joe Exotic — who is currently serving 22 years in federal prison after being convicted for allegedly attempting to hire someone to murder Baskin, his longtime nemesis. Baskin, an animal activist, runs the animal sanctuary Big Cat Rescue.
But aside from Exotic’s colourful life, one of the big mysteries of the series is what happened to Lewis, who was last seen on Aug. 18, 1997, and hasn’t been heard from since. In the documentary, Exotic alleges on camera that Baskin was not only responsible for her husband’s death, but that she also fed his remains to a tiger in her sanctuary. Baskin has denied having anything to do with Lewis’ disappearance.
On Monday, Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister tweeted about all the newfound interest in Lewis’ case, and asked for new leads.
“Since @netflix and #Covid19 #Quarantine has made #TigerKing all the rage, I figured it was a good time to ask for new leads,” he wrote alongside a poster about Lewis that includes a number to call for anybody with information.
Meanwhile, in a recent lengthy blog post, Baskin said she took issue with how she is portrayed in “Tiger King”, specifically, the focus on the disappearance of Lewis, who was her second husband.
“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 21 years ago,” she wrote. “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.”
Addressing Exotic’s claim about her feeding Lewis’ remains to her tiger, she wrote, “This is the most ludicrous of all the lies.”
In the documentary, people close to Lewis also claim that his marriage with Baskin was falling apart and days before his disappearance in 1997, she threatened his life. He attempted to get a restraining order, but it was rejected by a local judge.
“Don was not easy to live with and like most couples we had our moments,” Baskin wrote. “But I never threatened him and I certainly had nothing to do with his disappearance.”
“Tiger King” producers responded to Baskin’s blog post in an interview with The Los Angeles Times, refuting her claims that they pitched the documentary to her as “the big cat version of ‘Blackfish'” but instead made it as “salacious and sensational as possible” to attract viewers.
“Carole talked about her personal life, her childhood, abuse from her first and second husband, the disappearance of her ex, Don Lewis,” co-producer Eric Goode said. “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.”
“Tiger King” premiered on Netflix on March 20 and has since captivated viewers, including celebs like Cardi B and Jared Leto. Watch the video below for celeb responses to the true-crime documentary.
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