Tiger King subject Joseph Moldonado-Passage, better known as Joe Exotic, accused Donald Trump Jr. of using him to score social media points in his response to President Donald Trump not pardoning him. Moldonado-Passage's legal team already told TMZ they were "disappointed" by the president's decision, but his account shared another post on Instagram reacting to the news. Moldonado-Passage has been in prison since he was convicted on 17 federal charges of animal abuse and two counts of murder for hire.
"I was too GAY to deserve a Pardon from Trump," Moldonado-Passage wrote in an Instagram post on Wednesday. "I only mattered to Don Jr. when he needed to make a comment about me to boost his social media post." The post that Moldonado-Passage was referring to was published in March 2020, when Trump Jr. shared a meme with his father's face replacing Moldonado-Passage's. "Hahahahaha I love the internet. I heard about this guy," Trump Jr. wrote at the time.
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After Trump Jr.'s post, a reporter asked President Trump about pardoning Moldonado-Passage during a White House press briefing. Trump said he would "take a look" at the case, but the president ultimately did not pardon Moldonado-Passage. "We are as disappointed that the President did not sign Joe’s pardon, as we were confident yesterday that he would," his legal team told TMZ. They were so sure Trump would pardon Moldanado-Passage that a limo was seen parked outside the federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas.
Moldonado-Passage became a star suddenly in March 2020 thanks to Netflix's Tiger King documentary series. The series centered on his rivalry with Big Cat Rescue owner Carole Baskin, who sought to shut down his Oklahoma zoo due to animal abuse. Moldonado-Passage hired a hitman to kill Baskin, according to federal prosecutors. He was convicted on two counts of murder for hire, as well as violations of the Endangered Species Act and the Lacey Act. He was sentenced to 22 years in prison. Baskin, who later appeared on Dancing With the Stars, told TMZ she was happy Moldonado-Passage was not pardoned.
"If I understand the notice I got from the prison system, he's already gotten another month added to his sentence by not obeying prison rules," Baskin told TMZ. "If Joe really had a change of heart, he could do what Mario Tabraue did to lessen his 100-year drug trafficking conviction to 12 years by turning state's evidence against the other animal exploiters."