'Tiger King': Dr. Phil Weighs in During TMZ 'What Really Went Down?' Special

Dr. Phil McGraw had his say on the Tiger King phenomenon during TMZ's Fox special Monday night, Tiger King - What Really Went Down?. In the episode, McGraw diagnosed Joseph Maldonado-Passage, better known as "Joe Exotic," as a "malignant narcissist" and said the jury was right to convict him in 2019. Maldonado-Passage is in prison for hiring a hitman to kill Carole Baskin, his rival and the owner of Big Cat Rescue who wanted to shut down his Oklahoma private zoo.

"I mean, Lassie could figure this out," McGraw said Monday night. "If you have malignant narcissism, you don't have the ability to weigh the consequences of your actions. He shot a mannequin, a doll in the head on camera. He called her b— so much, I thought it was her last name! It's not hard for a jury to say he doesn't have the impulse control to restrain himself from this. He thinks he's so special he believes he's above the law and get away with this. I would agree with the jury's decision in finding him guilty."

Maldonado-Passage was sentenced to 22 years in prison on 17 federal charges of animal abuse and two counts of murder for hire. He first hired Allen Glover, an associate of his then-business partner Jeff Lowe, to kill Baskin. After Glover failed to do so, Maldonado-Passage hired a hitman, who turned out to be a federal agent. In the years leading up to his arrest, Maldonado-Passage filmed himself threatening to kill Baskin several times in episodes of his show, Joe Exotic TV.

McGraw suggested Maldonado-Passage and Baskin depended on each other for attention. "Either one of them could have deescalated the dispute. It took the two of them to keep this dispute going on," he said. "And both of them got currency out of it. Both of them fed off of it. You know, one log won't burn."

As for why Tiger King became a big hit for Netflix, McGraw said the series was depicted a disaster no one could look away from. "It's like being on the turnpike," he told TMZ. "You know, you go down there and there's road kill and you go, 'Oh don't look.' But you look."


Tiger King was released on March 20, just as millions of Americans began staying home during the coronavirus pandemic. Nielsen estimates that 34.3 million unique viewers watched the show in the first 10 days it was streaming. The series was directed by Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin.