Carole Baskin is doubling down on her claims that Netflix and the producers behind Tiger King "betrayed" her by pitching her a project entirely different from the one that appeared on screen. In a new interview with Fox News nearly a year after the Netflix docuseries became a breakout sensation, the Big Cat Rescue CEO accused the series' producers of lying to her when they approached her to participate in the series, which detailed Joe Exotic and his feud with Baskin.
Baskin, who shot to fame following the series' March 2020 debut and even appeared on ABC's Dancing With the Stars, told the outlet she "felt betrayed by" producers, whom she had been working with for five years. Baskin reiterated previous claims that producers had initially approached her with the notion of creating a docuseries that would be "Blackfish for big cats." Blackfish exposed abuse at SeaWorld, with Baskin noting that after the docuseries' debut, "the whole industry of whale shows and stealing whales and putting them in aquariums came to a halt.”
Baskin said she was looking forward to participating in a documentary that would "do the same for big cats," explaining she was under the impression Tiger King would be about "exposing how the cub petting is so cruel would be great." The now-viral star said producers had even told her the series would be titled Stolen Wildlife and "Joe would be in but in five minutes of it." Although Baskin had been "on board" for the series pitched to her, she was not on board for the one that made it to screen, which put not only heavy emphasis on her feud with Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldano-Passage, but also the decades-long unsolved disappearance of her missing ex-husband, Don Lewis.
"They totally lied to us about what their end product was going to be," she said. "The whole premise behind [the show] was that it was a feud. For a feud, you have to have two people that are feuding. I've never had a conversation with Joe. I've never even spoken to him."
Although that alleged feud eventually landed Exotic in jail – he is currently serving a 22-year prison sentence on two counts of murder-for-hire for his plot targeting Baskin as well as numerous other charges – Baskin said the feud portrayed on Tiger King was far from reality. Baskin told Fox News the feud was "never personal" to her and rather "what he hated for me for is I go after all of the animal exploiters that are exploiting big cats. He was one of many of them who have threatened to kill me. It's just he's the one they were finally able to catch and put behind bars." She said she "never said anything personal against Joe," and that she believes producers "had to paint me into this kind of Karen figure that just drove him mad and that's how this whole thing happened."
Although neither Netflix nor the series' producers responded to Fox’s request for comment, filmmakers Rebecca Chaiklin and Eric Goode previously responded to Baskin's remarks criticizing Tiger King last year. They claimed they "were completely forthright with the characters," adding, "with any project that goes on for five years, things evolve and change, and we followed it as any good storyteller does."