The Netflix documentary series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Mandess has captured America's attention in a way most television shows can only dream of since its release last month. Despite running almost seven hours though, Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin's series does not cover every thing about Joseph Maldonado-Passage's life as a tiger breeder. The series is missing several facts about his controversial life, aspects that have been covered in other media.
Although many had not heard the bizarre story of "Joe Exotic" until Netflix released the new series, it was not the first time he found himself at the center of media attention. Last fall, the second season of the podcast Over My Dead Body centered on Maldonado-Passage, with journalist Robert Moor as host. Moor also published an extensive profile of Moldonado-Passage in New York Magazine in September 2019. Both works include details Goode and Chailkin did not.
Moldonado-Passage's rivalry with Carole Baskin, the owner of Big Cat Rescue in Florida, is at the center of Tiger King and ultimately what landed him in prison. In 2019, Moldonado-Passage was convicted on 17 federal charges, including hiring a hitman to kill Baskin and several violations of the Endangered Species Act and is now serving 22 years in prison. Despite this, Joe Exotic became a "folk hero" due to the series, even prompting petitions to get him pardoned. However, some facts left out of the series might make some people think again about supporting him.
Joe Exotic Complained He Couldn't Use the 'N-Word'
In 2015, Moldonado-Passage filmed a "Joe Exotic TV" segment in which he complained he could not use the "n-word" as a white man. "What's going on in this country? It's absolutely pathetic. I can't say the n-word but you can get on YouTube and watch any black man's video and they're calling each other the n-word. What the hell?" he said in the video, which resurfaced on TMZ. "Is this discrimination? I'm white, I can't say the n-word and they can?"
Moldonado-Passage's racism was not covered in Tiger King, which Chaiklin defended in a Hollywood Reporter interview. "Yes. Joe is a racist, I would say categorically. He said things when we were filming that were very unsettling,"she said. "They didn't have a context in the story, but he has a lot to learn. I think most of it was ignorance and not having a lot of exposure, and I think he even evolved over the course of the time that we filmed."prevnext
Joe's Second Husband is Serving Life in Prison for Murder
5. Before Joe married John or Travis, he married another young (straight) guy named JC Hartpence. Hartpence later served time in prison for molesting a young girl, and is now serving life in prison for first degree murder. pic.twitter.com/gn1wtOft3v— 𝐑𝐨𝐛𝐞𝐫𝐭 𝐌𝐨𝐨𝐫 (@robertmoor_) March 23, 2020
Moldonado-Passage's second husband was not mentioned in Tiger King. He was first in a long-term relationship with Brian Rhyme, who died from complications of HIV in 2001. The next year, he began a relationship with Jeffrey Charles 'JC' Hartpence. The relationship turned violent, and Moldonado-Passage left after Hartpence held a gun to his head while drunk. years after the two broke up, Hartpence was put on a sex offender registry after he was convicted for "aggravated indecent liberties" with a child under 14 years old. He is now in a Kansas prison for the 2014 murder of Curtis Shelton and is not eligible for parole until 2034.prevnext
Joe Exotic Faked Cancer
9. For a long time, Joe told everyone he was dying from prostate & bone marrow cancer. He raised $$$ from his Facebook fans for his expenses.
He showed me this horrifying photo as proof. I later learned he just had an infected prostate, dehydration, & a bad outbreak of herpes. pic.twitter.com/uAuXqdsjfQ— 𝐑𝐨𝐛𝐞𝐫𝐭 𝐌𝐨𝐨𝐫 (@robertmoor_) March 24, 2020
Moor shared a photo Moldonado-Passage once gave him, claiming it was evidence he was dying from prostate and bone marrow cancer. He used Facebook to raise money from his fans for medical expenses. However, Moor discovered the photo was taken after Moldonado-Passage had an infected prostate, dehydration and a "bad outbreak of herpes." Moldonado-Passage also once claimed he had tuberculosis, which even caused PETA to slam him in 2014 for putting his Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Park employees and animals at risk. In 2015, he released a video, claiming he was actually diagnosed with CVID, an immune deficiency disease and never had tuberculosis.prevnext
Carole Baskin's Ex-Boyfriend Jay Baykal Took Out a Restraining Order Against Her
12. After Don Lewis vanished, but before Carole married Howard, she dated a guy named Jay Baykal.March 24, 2020
Carole Baskin's relationship with Jay Baykal after her husband Don Lewis disappeared was not mentioned in Tiger King, even in the episode devoted to Moldonado-Passage's belief she killed Lewis. In 2002, Baykal filed a restraining order against Baskin, and it included a bizarre detail about Lewis' disappearance. Baykal claimed that when he asked Baskin what would happen if Lewis showed up, she replied, "Dead body cannot talk." Baykal also wrote that Lewis' daughter told him Baskin "could be dangerous and watch my back."prevnext
Allen Glover Claimed on the Stand he Did Go to Florida
In Tiger King, Allen Glover - a handyman who worked for Jeff Lowe and was allegedly the first hitman Moldonado-Passage hired to kill Baskin - claimed he did not actually go to Florida. Glover took Moldonado-Passage's money and disappeared, so Moldonado-Passage hired another hitman who turned out to be an undercover federal agent. Glover later spoke with authorities and his testimony played a big part in Moldonado-Passage's conviction.
16. Joe's lawyers argued that Alan had made this up bc it's a "better story." But…is it? Or was Glover just covering his ass in case some new evidence emerged showing he had in fact been to FL. Did he go there intending to kill Carole & then just (in his words) "chicken out"? pic.twitter.com/7lADS8yMh4— 𝐑𝐨𝐛𝐞𝐫𝐭 𝐌𝐨𝐨𝐫 (@robertmoor_) March 26, 2020
However, as Moor notes, Glover said on the stand he actually got drunk and drove to Florida, where he passed out on a beach. He told the prosecution he intended to warn Baskin about Moldonado-Passage's intentions. He never did that, and went back to South Carolina after he ran out of money. Moldonado-Passage's lawyers claimed Glover was making this up.prevnext
In a Secretly-Taped Conversation With James Garretson, Joe Explained How Baskin's Murder Would Happen
17. To anyone who came away from #TigerKingNetflix thinking Joe was framed, please take a look at this secretly taped conversation between Joe and James, which was played at the trial. These are not the words of an innocent man! pic.twitter.com/78LpflJRIE— 𝐑𝐨𝐛𝐞𝐫𝐭 𝐌𝐨𝐨𝐫 (@robertmoor_) March 26, 2020
Of course, Tiger King could not cram in all the evidence against Moldonado-Passage that led to his conviction. One piece of evidence was a secretly-recorded conversation between him and James Garretson, a businessman who worked with Jeff Lowe and later became an informant for the feds. In the conversation, which Moor reports was played at the trial, Moldonado-Passage described how the hitman was going to buy a go-phone to communicate with Lowe and later throw away. If the hitman was caught, "we got our story down to where we fired the motherf— and he just went off the deep end," Moldonado-Passage told Garreston.prevnext
Lowe and Joe Wanted to Open a Bisexual Strip Club/Petting Zoo Called 'Tigers and Dreams'
18. Later, that plan changed into opening a drive-in movie theater. Jeff convinced a guy named Joe Barth to lend him some equipment to start construction, then Jeff went and sold the equipment.
Barth filed a lawsuit. The next day Barth's house mysteriously burned down.
2/2— 𝐑𝐨𝐛𝐞𝐫𝐭 𝐌𝐨𝐨𝐫 (@robertmoor_) March 28, 2020
When Moldonado-Passage first teamed up with Lowe, one of their ideas was to buy up land next to GW Zoo and open a bisexual strip club and petting zoo called "Tigers and Dreams," according to Moor. The plan changed to become a drive-in movie theater and Lowe convinced a man named Joe Barth to "lend" him equipment to start construction. Instead, Lowe sold the equipment, so Barth filed a lawsuit. Barth's home went up in flames the next day. He told the Daily Beast he still fears for his safety.prevnext
Joe Made Employees Sign $1 Million Non-Disclosure Agreements
20. People often ask why no one at Joe’s zoo ever “spoke out.” Part of the reason was because he made his employees sign a one million dollar non-disclosure agreement. (Which, it turns out, wasn’t legally valid.) Here’s a text he sent me at one point. pic.twitter.com/6LEtIjqbQj— 𝐑𝐨𝐛𝐞𝐫𝐭 𝐌𝐨𝐨𝐫 (@robertmoor_) March 31, 2020
One really puzzling part about the whole Tiger King saga is that none of Moldonado-Passage's employees spoke out about the horrible conditions at the zoo. One reason for that, according to Moor, is that he made them sign $1 million non-disclosure agreements, which were not legally valid. "Just so you know most everyone you have talked to from the zoo has 1 million dollar confidentiality contracts from the zoo," Moldonado-Passage wrote in a text to Moor.prev