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Carole Baskin, The Controversial Villain Of "Tiger King"

Carole Baskin, The Controversial Villain Of Tiger King

Carole Baskin is a famous animal activist. She appeared on Tiger King, the 2020 Netflix documentary, which reopened the case about the disappearance of her second husband.

Carole Baskin became the target of hatred and suspicion among viewers.

Carole Baskin's Appearance In Tiger King

Victim Or Murderer? Carole Baskin, The Controversial Villain Of Tiger King

Tiger King was a tremendous audiovisual phenomenon of 2020. If few things in fiction can almost amaze us more today than the reality itself, the Tiger King show is one of them.

Joe Exotic, Travis Maldonado, Doc Antle, and other unusual characters from the grotesque Netflix documentary became celebrities in just fifteen days.

However, one figure continues to arouse controversy and tons of hate. That is Carole Baskin, a millionaire activist. Many saw her as an unscrupulous murderer. For others, she is the victim of false and deliberate attacks against her.

Is she a murderer or martyr?

Carole Baskin's War With Joe Exotic

Carole Baskin, The Controversial Villain Of Tiger King

Tiger King tells the story of Joseph Maldonado-Passage, better known as Joe Exotic. He is the eccentric owner of a big cat roadside zoo, convicted of the attempted conspiracy to murder his nemesis, Carole Baskin. She is the owner of a sanctuary for these animals in Tampa (Florida).

Carole Baskin made it her goal to unmask the exploitation and sale practices of tigers, lions, and other felines by Exotic and others like him. The implacable hostility resulted in a million-dollar media and judicial war that has lasted for twenty years.

The war culminated with a 22-year prison sentence for Exotic for abuse and animal trafficking and attempted murder after hiring, unsuccessfully, a hitman to end Carol's life.

Two Sides Of The Story Of Carole Baskin

Victim Or Murderer? Carole Baskin, The Controversial Villain Of Tiger King

The series calls into question the alleged good intentions of the activist. Not only because of the dubious business ethics behind her sanctuary and the conditions where the animals reside but because of something far murkier.

There is an unsolved disappearance of her second husband, businessman Jack "Don" Lewis, and his possible death.

Previously, the success of other true-crime documentaries, such as Making a Murderer or The Jinx, caused the reopening of the cold cases. Fifteen days after Tiger King's premier, it followed the same path.

On March 30, Chad Chronister, Hillsborough County Sheriff, confirmed the case review that led to the businessman's disappearance.

Carole Baskin met Don in January 1981. She was 20, and he was 42, married with children. And so was she.

The day they met, Carole got into a fight with her then-husband. "I had to throw a potato at him from the kitchen to the dining room to get out the door," she recalled. She wandered the streets crying until a car stopped to help her. It was Don.

Although she refused a couple of times to go inside, she caved after he offered a strange proposal. She recalled with a laugh that he had a gun and told her, "You can it point at me." She took the gun, pointed it at him, and they talked.

They ended up spending that night together. Soon after, Don left his wife and children to start a new life with Carole Baskin. Their passion for big cats brought them together, and they created Wildlife on Easy Street, a reserve for these animals.

Love Quarrels

Victim Or Murderer? Carole Baskin, The Controversial Villain Of Tiger King

However, problems soon made an appearance. There were constant Don's infidelities, who, his daughter described as "addicted to sex." The couple also argued about how to manage the park.

Carole Baskin wanted to renounce the purchase and sale of felines, but he saw it as a big business. He even began to think of moving the reserve to Costa Rica, where he would have a legal arm to trade with tigers and panthers. That was also where one of his mistresses lived.

Acquaintances and workers of the association remember that the relationship between the two began to deteriorate for economic reasons. He was a multimillionaire, and she squandered her fortune in addition to being very ambitious.

However, the big twist in the story comes with the mysterious disappearance of Don.

Before vanishing without a trace, the businessman had requested a restraining order against Carole. Allegedly, he feared that she would kill him. It was denied due to a lack of evidence beyond her verbal threats.

Don's ex-wife, Gladys Lewis Cross, remembered on camera the last day she saw him. She said that "he told me that he was fed up, that he would get a divorce because Carole Baskin was one of the worst people he had ever met and that she was very dangerous."

A Mysterious Disappearance Of Carole Baskin's Second Husband

Victim Or Murderer? Carole Baskin, The Controversial Villain Of Tiger King

Don planned to transport cars to Costa Rica on the day he disappeared, on August 18, 1997. Carole claims that he may have had a plane crash. Don had several planes and flew without reporting it because he had lost his license.

Carole emphasized how days before the disappearance, he behaved erratically and displayed memory loss. She found nothing but his abandoned van at the airport, not knowing how it got there.

Both Don's original family and friends close to the couple who appeared in the documentary point to Carole Baskin as a possible suspect. "She is an angel sent from hell. And one day you will realize it", his ex-wife foresaw.

The convicted criminals in the documentary have undergone the classic process of romanticizing other fictional villains. Yet, Baskin was attacked on social media without scruples or credible evidence, confined to the femme fatale archetype.

In a survey, Buzzfeed asked to rate the characters that appeared throughout the series as "innocent" or "guilty." Carole Baskin was the one that generated the most disapproval. More than 225,000 votes found her guilty. This was up to seventeen percentage points above Exotic and the rest of the convicted criminals who paraded through the seven chapters.

Once the viewing was over, very few decided to place themselves in the #teamBaskin. Several media outlets blamed those responsible for the work for encouraging this pernicious portrait.

Journalist Willa Paskin in the Slate article Tiger King Picked the Wrong Villain, wrote:

"In a series that is filled with criminals, cult leaders, polygamists, batterers of women, abusers of animals and cruel egomaniacs, the only one who is not treated with any sympathy is Baskin."

Carole Basking: Blamed By Everyone

Victim Or Murderer? Carole Baskin, The Controversial Villain Of Tiger King

The Independent described the documentary as misogynistic. The publications wrote that "in each interview about the disappearance of her husband, Carole Baskin is forced to defend herself all the time from the accusations against her, a position that always suggests guilt."

The prestigious PETA also defended Big Cat Rescue, assuring that the series "does not reliably portray" the work or facilities.

Joe Exotic presented the most outlandish theory. He claimed that Carole Baskin killed her husband, fed his remains to tigers, and buried the bones in the reserve's septic tank. He composed a song and recorded a video clip in which he painted her as a murderer.

Rumors even suggested that she had put his body in the meat machine and then fed her felines. It is a dark theory that she talks about and denies, between laughs, in the documentary.

What was the straw that broke the camel's back for conspiracies? Carole's brother was working with the sheriff at the time, and some say that he was her accomplice.

Baskin pointed out that she was disappointed with the docu-series:

"When the directors of the Netflix documentary Tiger King came to us five years ago, they said they wanted to make the big cat version of Blackfish, the acclaimed documentary that exposed the horrible abuse taking place at SeaWorld and other similar parks around the world."

Eric Goode, one of the documentary's co-directors, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times replied:

"She knew we weren't just talking about big cats. We didn't coerce her."

He said that Baskin's alleged environmental concerns were just a facade:

"I have no doubt that she had no interest to see a wild animal in its natural habitat."

Carole Baskin's Life After Tiger King

Victim Or Murderer? Carole Baskin, The Controversial Villain Of Tiger King

A possible motive for the crime was money. Initially, the will could not be executed as there was no confirmation of his death. It became effective five years and one day after the disappearance.

Carole Baskin was the biggest beneficiary of the fortune, leaving Don's daughters with just 10% of it.

With this money, she was able to start and maintain the current Big Cat Rescue sanctuary.

In 2004, she married her third husband and staunch advocate, Howard Baskin. The wedding photos, in which he poses at her feet dressed as a tiger and tied with a leash around his neck, have as little publicity as the rest of the macabre story that surrounds Carole's life.

More about Baskin came to light. Robert Moor, the author of the podcast Joe Exotic, revealed that Carole Baskin had another partner, Jay Baykal, between Lewis's disappearance and her third marriage.

In 2002, Baykal filed a restraining order against the activist. In the complaint, a conversation was presented that could shed more light on the case. When he asked his girlfriend at the time what would happen if Don Lewis suddenly appeared, she simply replied that "the dead do not speak."