“[Tiger King] was totally not what we had been told the series was going to be about,” she said on recently launched podcast The Tea With Dr. V, hosted by celebrity shrink and relationship guru Venus “Dr. V” Nicolino.
Following its debut on Netflix in March 2020, the show about big-cat owners and aficionados broke out as a pop culture sensation during Covid lockdowns, earning six Emmy nominations. While some of the attention it brought to Baskin was harmless — including plenty of memes — some of certainly wasn’t.
From the perspective of the big-cat activist, what was particularly problematic about Tiger King was that it made her out to be the villain — “a vicious, gold-digging, home-wrecking murderer,” she told Nicolino. This was in stark contrast, she said, to the way the show’s main subject, former Oklahoma zoo operator Joe Exotic, was received. While Exotic now is in prison for numerous crimes, including hiring someone to kill Baskin, she said he has been made to be out to be a kind of folk hero.
Baskin came to be understood by some as a “murderer” because the show gave focus to a conspiracy theory — perpetuated by her business rival, Exotic — pertaining to the 1997 disappearance of her second husband, Don Lewis. His theory was that Baskin fed Lewis, who was declared legally dead in 2002, to the tigers at her animal sanctuary.
Baskin said that the perpetuation of this claim led her to get death threats. “After [Tiger King] aired,” she said, “people were calling me, just screaming at the top of their lungs, how much they hated me and they wanted to kill me, and they wanted to kill my family.”
During her conversation with Nicolino, Baskin also touched on her 2020 appearance on Dancing with the Stars and more.