The woman he tried to have killed has offered an olive branch, but Joe Exotic wants the whole tree.
Just over a year on from the world's introduction to Tiger King, Joe Exotic — AKA Joseph Maldonado-Passage — is still in prison, and he is seeking an unlikely partnership to win his freedom.
Having failed to secure a pardon from Donald Trump because he was, in Joe's words, "too innocent and too gay to deserve a pardon from Trump," he's now turning to the most unlikely of sources for help: Carole Baskin.
His arch-nemesis — whom he tried to have killed after years of accusing her of murdering her second husband Don Lewis — has, in fact, suggested that she'd be willing to help him get an early release from prison, with some caveats. Baskin has made it her life's work to eliminate the breeding and exploitation of exotic big cats in America. And she, along with her third husband Howard Baskin, have promised to advocate for Joe Exotic to receive a reduced sentence, if he supports that cause.
In addition to supporting the Big Cat Public Safety Act — which passed in the House of Representatives in December, and would outlaw licensed facilities from allowing members of the public to handle big cats — Carole has outlined how Joe can use his inside information to help dismantle the big cat exhibition industry.
"He'd have to actually work with authorities to bring all of his buddies to justice and work with legislators to end cub handling," she said. "Then, I'd want him to be rewarded for having done the right thing."
The World Behind 'Tiger King': Why There Are So Many Big Cats in the U.S. | WSJwww.youtube.com
Patrons paying to play with cubs bring in a huge portion of the profits made by big cat breeders, and this incentivizes them to breed more cats that generally stop being profitable when they reach adulthood. Outlawing cub handling could go a long way toward eliminating an industry that runs on the exploitation and mistreatment of big cats.
On paper, Joe Exotic should be on board. He has expressed regret over his own mistreatment of the animals at the G.W. Exotic Animal Park — "Go sit in a cage with your animal for a week ... I'm ashamed of myself," he said. Add to this the fact that his young husband Dillon Passage is reportedly waiting for him (or at least "not in a hurry" to get divorced), and his health is reportedly in a dire state — Joe and his attorneys claim he's been rapidly losing weight as a result of receiving inadequate treatment for multiple life-threatening conditions — and you might expect him to accept this olive branch.
But if you take into account everything else he's ever said and done, you would know that was never going to happen. Instead, Joe basically took a look at that olive branch, did one of his weird little sniffs, and said, "What about the rest of that tree?"
While he does want Carole Baskin to help him get out of prison, he wants her help on his terms, and seems to think he has the upper hand. "I'll testify in front of the Senate. I'll testify in front of the House," he said. "They want to end big cats in America, and they want to end the exploitation of them, I'm the man to do it."
That promise might have rung true if he hadn't prefaced it by attacking the bill's language, saying, "The way it's written is not gonna help anybody except PETA and Carole Baskin." And it definitely would have seemed more sincere if he hadn't followed it up with some extra demands.
Because it's not enough for the target of Joe's murder-for-hire scheme to speak on his behalf and support his early release. Joe Exotic wants nothing less than a presidential pardon and a confession that Carole Baskin — who took control of Exotic's former animal park last summer — is the real villain.
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"It is time for Carole and Howard to put up or shut the hell up," he said. "...It is time to get on the phone to President Biden or whoever they need to that they've got in their little financial pocket and say, 'Get Joe a pardon, because this wasn't really about murder-for-hire or shooting five tigers — this was about exploiting Joe to support Carole's agenda.' So, there's the offer on the table, all right?"
It seems unlikely that the Baskins have President Joe Biden "in their little financial pocket." And whether or not their stake in Joe's conviction was all about pushing their own agenda, the reason for his 22-year prison sentence is absolutely because he tried to have Carole Baskin murdered and illegally killed five of his tigers.
So chances are he's not going to get that pardon. Even if the Baskins come forward to say, "Never mind, we were just kidding," and even if Joe testifies in Congress that "the bill I just said won't help anyone except PETA and Carole Baskin is rad actually, you should vote for it," it's no going to happen.
In the best case scenario, perhaps Joe's vocal advocacy for himself will raise awareness of the abysmal health care prisoners recieve in the US, and specifically in the Fort Worth Federal Medical Center where he's being detained. Maybe he will start receiving the kind of treatment he needs in order to survive the next 20 years of his full sentence — because he's clearly too stubborn and self-important to accept help and an early release.
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