In 2020, Tampa animal activist Carole Baskin became an unwitting celebrity, after she was featured in the documentary miniseries Tiger King on Netflix. Record audiences binged on the salacious story of Oklahoma zookeeper Joseph “Joe Exotic” Schreibvogel and his attempts to have Baskin – who objected publicly to his inhumane, for-profit treatment of big cats – murdered.
Tiger King, which ended with Joe Exotic sentenced to 22 years behind bars, made Baskin the target of death threats via the post, the internet and social media, the punchline to late-night comedians’ jokes, and intense water-cool scuttlebutt (Schreibvogel speculated, with no evidence, that she had killed her husband Don Lewis in 1997, and fed him to the captive tigers at her Hillsborough County sanctuary, Big Cat Rescue).
Baskin has always maintained that she was interviewed for Tiger King under the proviso that the film was to document a small gentleman’s club of breeders like Joe Exotic, who exploit big cats as babies, and then cast them aside when they’re too old to generate cash.
In this exclusive St. Pete Catalyst interview with the St. Pete Catalyst, Baskin says she has never spoken with Joe Exotic, although she’d known who he was for a long time. “Part of our mission is to expose people who are abusing big cats,” she says. “These people often operate under different names, so that they can hide from their bad USDA reports, and the criminal activities that they’ve been involved in. #stpetecatalyst #bigcatrescue #tampabay #radio