Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness is the latest Netflix hit. The true crime docuseries follows American exotic wild animal collectors who mostly collect big cats. Since the show's release, many people have accused one of the main characters—Carole Baskin—of being involved in the disappearance of her millionaire ex-husband, Jack (Don) Lewis.
The docuseries is made up of seven episodes following eccentric zoo owner Joe Exotic and competition between him and Baskin, his rival. Exotic developed a strong dislike for Baskin and allegedly hired a hitman to take her out though the attempt was unsuccessful. Most viewers became more interested in whether Baskin was responsible for her ex-husband’s disappearance.
Baskin describes herself as an animal rights activist and owns Big Cat Rescue in Florida. She did not like how she was portrayed in the docuseries which was released on March 20 and is currently Netflix’s most popular TV show.
Many big cat community members claim that Baskin murdered her ex-husband and fed him to her tigers during the series. Lewis has been missing since August 18, 1997.
Since Tiger King was released, Sheriff Chad Chronister of Hillsborough County has posted to Twitter asking for new leads on the case.
In a blog post released by Baskin last week, she wrote, “When the directors of the Netflix documentary Tiger King came to us five years ago they said they wanted to make the big cat version of Blackfish (the documentary that exposed abuse at SeaWorld) that would 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 if they survive.”
“There are not words for how disappointing it is to see that the docuseries not only does not do any of that but has had the sole goal of being as salacious and sensational as possible to draw viewers.”
Just two months before Lewis disappeared, he alleged that Baskin threatened to kill him and he proceeded to file for an order of protection against her.
“[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 21 years ago,” Baskin posted. “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 inherited the animal sanctuary along with millions of dollars from Lewis in 2002 after he was declared dead.
Baskin has denied all claims against her and has not received any charges.
Eric Goode, the co-producer of Tiger King defended the show when speaking with LA Times noting that Baskin spoke of “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. The other thing I would say about all these people is that there was a lack of intellectual curiosity to really go and understand or even see these animals in the wild. Certainly, Carole really had no interest in seeing an animal in the wild."
“The lack of education, frankly, was really interesting – how they had built their own little utopias and really were only interested in that world and the rules they had created.”
Co-producer Rebecca Chaiklin said that they were “completely forthright with the characters.”
“With any project that goes on for five years, things evolve and change, and we followed it as any good storyteller does,” she said. “We could have never known when we started this project that it was going to land where it did.”
Joe Exotic is now serving 22 years in prison for attempting to kill Baskin by hiring a hitman. Goode is still in touch with Exotic.
“Joe has called me quite a few times over the last few days and weeks,” Goode said. “One, he is absolutely ecstatic about the series and the idea of being famous. He’s absolutely thrilled. I think he is trying to be an advocate for — no surprise — criminal justice reform. 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.”
Chalke noted “you can hardly talk to him without mentioning the amount of press he’s getting.”
“Having kept in pretty close touch with him while he’s been in a horrible county prison, this has raised his spirits. 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.”
Joe released a music video about Baskin killing Lewis and feeding him to her tigers.