Carole Baskin tells Us Weekly she has no hard feelings after being tricked into doing her first TV interview since Tiger King debuted with two YouTubers pretending to be the Tonight Show‘s Jimmy Fallon.
Josh Pieters and Archie Manners contacted the Big Cat Rescue CEO a few weeks ago and said they were from a production company that books celebrities for talk show appearances. The animal activist, who had slammed the Netflix hit and declined interview requests after the show began streaming, initially refused the pair’s request but then agreed as long as the conversation would only be about cats.
The jokesters then downloaded a series of clips of the Saturday Night Live alum interviewing stars and talking about cats and told Baskin, 58, that while she’d be able to hear Fallon, she wouldn’t be able to see him “because they’re filming [the show] on the cameras in his house.”
In the fake interview posted on YouTube by Pieters and Manners on Sunday, May 3, Baskin talked about how she is doing amid the coronavirus pandemic. She revealed that because her sanctuary has been closed down amid the quarantine and she “had to let go about half of our staff” and she and the remaining volunteers are having to “work double-time” to care for the 55 exotic cats at her sanctuary. She admitted that “after COVID-19, I just don’t know if we’re ever going to be able to do tours again.”
The YouTubers convinced her to don her flower crown, which she insisted was a Hawaiian lei, to introduce a short clip featuring photos of herself and her third husband, Howard Baskin, at the sanctuary. She also took the opportunity to promote a proposed law, the Big Cat Safety Act, she is championing to end the abuse of tigers, lions and other big cats being kept in roadside zoos.
Baskin isn’t angry about Pieters and Manners fooling her, telling Us, “I was suspicious as we were doing it because the questions appeared taped. But had no idea it would turn out to be such a fun prank. It gave us a very welcome good laugh. I appreciate their cleverness and that they created their video in a way that I don’t feel was in any way mean-spirited.”
Tiger King star Joe Exotic is currently serving 22 years in prison for a murder-for-hire scheme to kill Baskin, his nemesis, along with 17 counts of animal abuse. The former zoo owner’s unsubstantiated claims that Baskin killed her second husband, Don Lewis, and fed him to her tigers have made her the object of scrutiny. While Baskin has denied having any involvement in her husband’s 1997 disappearance, the Hillsborough County sheriff reopened Lewis’ missing persons cold case.
She told the Tampa Bay Times in her first print interview since the show debuted on March 20 that she’s been getting death threats. Baskin said that she now fears leaving her home and has been ambushed by people waiting for her on the side of the road and yelling at her.
She also slammed the documentary makers, who she thought were making a film that would expose animal abuse in the captive tiger trade, telling the newspaper, “I just feel so angry that people have totally missed the point.”
Tiger King is streaming on Netflix.