Carole Baskin is being sued by her missing husband, Don Lewis’, family for defamation. According to court documents obtained by ET, Lewis’ daughters — Gale, Lynda and Donna — as well as Lewis’ former executive assistant, Anne McQueen, claim that Baskin was “complicit with jokes” about her former husband’s death on “Dancing With the Stars”, “When judges brought up TikTok videos inspired by her storyline in ‘Tiger King’.” ET has reached out to Baskin for comment.
The story of Lewis’ disappearance was featured in the Netflix docuseries, as Joe Exotic alleged that Baskin killed Lewis, a claim she has vehemently denied.
In their lawsuit, Lewis’ family claims that Baskin didn’t condemn or correct the comments about him while on “DWTS”. The family also accuses her of being complicit in jokes about Lewis in her “Good Morning America” interview earlier this month, as she quipped that she’d “really kill it next week” on “DWTS”.
The court docs also state that Baskin has been uploading and publishing new information about her relationship with Lewis in videos and diary entries which she claims are from the past.
In a statement to ET, Lewis’ family’s attorney, Jon Phillips, states that they filed a lawsuit for defamation and various breaches as Baskin had settled a libel and slander claim from McQueen in 1998, paying $50,000. “These exact same false statements, and additional ones, are being made again in 2020. It is malicious. Making matters worse, Howard Baskin is making these same statements publicly, as is Big Cat Rescue. As such, they have been added as Defendants,” the statement alleges, in part.
During a commercial break in the “DWTS” premiere last week, a spot aired in local Florida markets that brought up allegations regarding the 1997 disappearance of Baskin’s second husband.
While speaking with ET, Phillips explained the rationale behind the ad and why Lewis’ family made the commercial, which includes the family announcing a $100,000 reward for information, and encouraging viewers to call their tip line.
“Carole Baskin goes on YouTube, Facebook and does blogs every single day getting out her narrative. It’s landed her on a major TV show, ‘Dancing with the Stars’. She was the featured person in all the commercials and last to dance,” Phillips said. “All the messaging about Carole and her fame comes at their peril. There was ‘Tiger King’ — and it focused on the exotic animal industry — but a lot of it was about the death and disappearance of Don Lewis. A lot of her contention with Joe Exotic was about whether she was involved in Don Lewis’ death.”
“The family never really got the chance to know and years have gone by,” he continued. “Since ‘Tiger King’, Carole has done daily diary entries and was going to use this show as a springboard to her message. So [Lewis’ family] wanted their message out there. They wanted, at least locally, to counter message Carole Baskin’s, in their mind, lies and fraud.”
Phillips also called out the “DWTS” producers and judges for making jokes about the situation.
“‘Dancing with the Stars’ producers, you think it’s funny to say ‘she killed it’ and to use part of that TikTok rhyme that is derogatory to Carole in in the judging, but let’s stop and realize that there is an actual death involved here and be serious and maybe somebody will come forward,” he expressed. “If not, at least people today will be talking about Don Lewis and not just Carole Baskin.”
ET also spoke with Baskin following her debut performance on “DWTS” last Monday, where she reacted to the family airing the ad.
“I have not seen the ad. I am not at all surprised,” Baskin said. “It’s just been a huge publicity stunt on their part so what more could they possibly do than that?”
Hear more of what she said in the video below.
MORE FROM ET: