President Donald Trump told reporters at his White House press conference yesterday that he’d “take a look” at Joe Exotic’s appeal for a pardon, although he emphasized he knows nothing about the case.
Joe Exotic (real name Joe Maldonado-Passage) is the star of recent Netflix hit documentary, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.
Exotic, 57, who is gay, made a name for himself as the owner of a private roadside zoo in Oklahoma – as well as his unconventional lifestyle. He was openly married to two other men at the same time in a “throuple”. He claimed to have the biggest collection of big cats in the US. He also run to be Governor of Oklahoma in 2016.
His world came crashing down in 2019 when he was found guilty of hiring a hitman to kill his arch-nemesis, a Florida-based animal rights activist named Carole Baskin. He was also found guilty of animal rights abuses, including killing unwanted tigers. He received a federal prison sentence of 22 years.
He has always denied the charges, claiming he was set up on the murder-for-hire charge and that he had to sometimes “euthanize” animals that fell ill at his zoo. He has indicated that he will appeal to President Trump for a pardon.
The bulk of Trump’s White House press conference yesterday was taken up with discussing the current coronavirus outbreak. However, New York Post’s Steven Nelson also asked Trump if he had any thoughts on Joe Exotic’s 22-year sentence and appeal for a pardon.
Earlier in the week, Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jnr, had told SiriusXM that he felt Exotic’s sentence was “aggressive.” He had also jokingly suggested he would advocate for a pardon for Exotic.
“I know nothing about it. He has 22 years for what? What did he do?” replied Trump Snr to the reporter.
Nelson responded, “He allegedly hired someone to murder an animal rights activist but he said he didn’t do that.”
Trump then pushed Nelson for his opinion, asking him if he believes Exotic should be pardoned. Nelson declined to offer an opinion.
“I’ll take a look,” replied President Trump, before moving on to another question. You can watch the exchange below.
Nelson has been criticized by some people for asking the President about Joe Exotic at a time of national crisis.
He later defended himself on Twitter, pointing out he had also asked coronavirus-based questions during the press conference: “I asked President Trump about a pardon request from the star of Netflix’s top rated show after his son weighed in. But I also asked about WHO coronavirus funding and this emerging bipartisan detail that may land in recovery infrastructure bill.”
I asked President Trump about a pardon request from the star of Netflix’s top rated show after his son weighed in
— Steven Nelson (@stevennelson10) April 9, 2020
Tiger King has been a huge ratings hit for Netflix. The streamer says it’s been watched by 34 million people during its first ten days online (although Netflix figures include those who have watched just a few minutes of the show), with many aghast at the lifestyles of those featured. Others have criticized the show for not doing more to emphasize the abuses experienced by animals at some private zoos.
Lowe took to Instagram to tease the news himself a couple of days ago, although sources tell Deadline the project is in only in preliminary discussions at the moment.