Like most people, I thought Tiger King was hugely entertaining. The core feud between Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin was excellent TV, with lots of twists and a great cast of supporting characters. However, there have been some very valid criticisms of the show from some of the participants, most notably the aforementioned Baskin.
While the documentary never quite comes out and says she killed her ex-husband Don Lewis, they hint at it very hard. In addition, they draw some pretty broad parallels between Baskin and Exotic, making Baskin look hypocritical for campaigning against big cat zoos while effectively running one herself.
Soon after the show hit big, Baskin posted a lengthy rebuttal to Tiger King on the Big Cat Rescue website. She explained that the series was pitched to her as “the big cat version of Blackfish” and that it’d expose the cruelty to animals caused by people like Joe Exotic. The show did touch on this, though the true focus was the eccentric personalities and bizarre events rather than the cats themselves. But Baskin goes into detail on Don Lewis’ disappearance, explaining that he was showing symptoms of dementia.
“In the few years preceding his disappearance Don’s behavior was gradually showing signs of mental deterioration. Originally Don, from time to time, would buy vehicles or other equipment at auctions with a view to reselling them, although mostly he never got around to reselling them. But gradually his hoarding of junk that he brought to the 40 acres the sanctuary now sits on increased and involved junk of no value. He deteriorated into dumpster diving and even got stuck in a dumpster and called me crying because he did not know where he was. … 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.”
She also addressed the insinuation that she pulped his body in a meat grinder and fed him to the big cats, saying:
This is the most ludicrous of all the lies. As Gladys and the daughters did everything they could to make life difficult for me after Don disappeared, they 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. Meat had to first be cut into one-inch cubes like you see here to go through it. 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.
The whole thing is worth reading, so be sure to check it out via the link below.
Personally, I don’t think Baskin killed her husband, but I also don’t think she was that troubled by his death. Don Lewis, with his mysterious trips to Costa Rica and unexplained wealth, sounds like a pretty shady guy (as it seems do most people who own big cats). Perhaps he just got on the wrong side of some associates and dropped off the map. But the only person who knows for sure that Carole Baskin didn’t do it is Carole Baskin. So, you decide whether to take her at her word.
Whatever the case, I doubt that she’s going to appear in the potential second season of Tiger King. However, it does seem like Baskin will be the subject of a miniseries starring Ghostbusters’ Kate McKinnon, so it should be interesting to see how she’s portrayed there.