“Hey all you cool cats and kittens,” Carole Baskin claims that her husband isn’t dead after all.
The Tiger King star explained that her missing ex-husband, Don Lewis, was found alive in Costa Rica, but the discovery is now going viral – over a year later.
During a resurfaced November 2021 interview with ITV’s This Morning talk show, Baskin, 61, claimed her ex – who was pronounced legally dead in 2002 after disappearing a few years earlier – was actually alive and well .
However, not everyone buys it.
Baskin herself told The Post she was unaware of the alleged revelation until the series sequel aired in November 2021.
“I wasn’t aware of this until ‘TK2’ aired,” Baskin told the Post via email, as much confusion and online debate was sparked on social media. The animal rights activist claimed in the resurfaced ITV footage that the Department of Homeland Security has been in touch with her ex-spouse.
“One of the really exciting things that came out of ‘Tiger King 2’ was that they produced a letter from Homeland Security stating that a Homeland Security special agent assigned to the FBI contacted the Sheriff’s Detective George [Jorge] Fernandez, which means this had to have happened after 2002 because Homeland Security wasn’t even there until 2002,” Baskin told the outlet at the time.
“They said my husband, Don Lewis, is alive and well in Costa Rica,” she revealed. “And yet all this drama was made about my having something to do with his disappearance, even though Homeland Security knew where he was.”
Lewis disappeared in 1997 at the age of 59 – and would be 84 if he were still alive today.
The Post has reached out to Baskin, the Department of Homeland Security, and the FBI for further comment. Meanwhile, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office in Florida partially shot down Baskin’s newly viral remarks when asked for confirmation.
“We have received no communication from our federal partners confirming the whereabouts of missing person Mr. Don Lewis,” Fentress Fountain, the sheriff’s office public information officer, told The Post. “The investigation into the disappearance of Don Lewis remains a priority for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, as do all missing persons cases.”
Lewis has not made any public statements debunking rumors that he has died.
“I don’t know why homeland security is saying he’s alive and well in Costa Rica, but I’m glad to hear that,” Baskin told ITV. “I didn’t think he would be able to take care of himself to nourish. He took about a million dollars with him to Costa Rica, I had agreed to let him do that so he could prove to himself that he could make a living.”
In November 2021, Baskin and her current husband, Howard, blogged on their Big Cats Rescue website questioning why the DHS had disclosed his alleged whereabouts to Netflix for season two, which she did not participate in.
“Also noteworthy is the document they show from Homeland Security, which was only formed as an agency in 2002, five years after Don Lewis disappeared, and says they had information that Don Lewis was living in Costa Rica,” they wrote then. “Why is this appearing now?”
The Post reached out to Netflix for comment.
Baskin’s Big Cat Rescue blog post included screenshots of the alleged DHS docs from the show’s second season and addressed unverified fan theories and claims that she killed him.
“And for anyone who still wants to believe that Carole killed Don, please explain to us why you are in this Homeland Security Document, which says, ‘Don Lewis is currently alive and well in Costa Rica,'” write. “This was reported to Jorge Fernandez of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office by the SAC with the FBI pursuant to this letter. Although they intentionally redacted the name and date of the SAC, we know that Homeland Security did not exist as of November 2002, five years after Don Lewis left his home in Tampa, FL.”
And although the news is over a year old, thanks to the now viral social media posts, people are just beginning to pay attention to her.
“Was I the only one who didn’t know that Carole Baskin’s husband lived his best life in Costa Rica?!” someone wrote on twitter.
Another person wrote“Wait a minute I see people saying Carole Baskin’s husband was found ALIVE???”
In the first season of the hit Netflix docu-series, which premiered in 2020 at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, Baskin revealed that her ex-husband mysteriously disappeared in 1997. At the time of his disappearance, the two were married and she claimed never to have heard from him again CBS News.
She has since remarried, having married Howard Baskin in 2004.
After Baskin shared her story on the series, which chronicled the trials and tribulations of incarcerated big cat keeper Joseph Maldonado-Passage, aka Joe Exotic the Tiger King, many people thought Baskin had something to do with her ex’s disappearance. Some even launched into some outlandish conspiracy theories, including an unsubstantiated claim that she was involved in a hit-and-run.
Exotic – who is now serving a 21-year sentence for hiring a hitman to take out Baskin – also claimed she fed her ex to the tigers at Big Cat Rescue.
Baskin was so traumatized by it all that she joined a “secret” support group for celebrities going through similar things.
Meanwhile, the attorney for Baskin’s nemesis Exotic slammed the new claims in a statement on Wednesday.
“During the making of Tiger King, painstaking efforts were made to locate Don Lewis. They all failed. He is not alive,” attorney John M. Phillips posted on Facebook. “Carole Baskin’s 2021 report was another unproven claim. It is re-released as if it had veracity. It doesn’t. The story of the Tiger King is full of lies, staging and deception. We’re still awaiting a hearing for Joe’s release. The lies and the staging are set out in his motion for a new trial. Read it. The job is done.”
Lewis’ family also thought Baskin was involved in his disappearance, even paying for a TV spot during her 2020 debut on Dancing With The Stars, asking the public for answers and tips.
“Do you know who did this or if Carole Baskin was involved?” Said Exotics attorney Phillips during the commercial.
However, Baskin has vehemently denied these claims.
“I think their actions are just a publicity stunt,” the Big Cat Rescue owner said in an email to CNN after the commercial aired, “but if it helps us find Don, it will be a huge relief.” being.”
Baskin was not a part of Tiger King season 2 and has opened up about her disdain for the Netflix-spun narrative, which claims it had something to do with Lewis’ disappearance.
“I told them to lose my number,” Baskin told Page Six in May 2021, six months before the show’s release. “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on you.”
“Season 2, as expected and hinted at in the trailer, continues to do everything it can to falsely convince the viewer that Carole was involved in the disappearance of Don Lewis,” the Baskins told the Los Angeles Times in a 2021 statement.
They also claimed that the second season sparked a new “wave” of social media haters against the animal rights activist.
“Consistent with their previous lack of ethics, the producers have continued with the technique they used in Season 1 of making accusatory statements about Carole, followed by images or videos of her chosen to intentionally reinforce the allegations and to enlarge,” her statement continued. “The result, as expected, was a fresh wave of hate on social media directed at Carole on the day of publication.”
Baskin was so angry with Netflix that she, along with Royal Goode Productions, filed a lawsuit against Netflix in November 2021 after the trailer for the second season was released.
In the lawsuit, she claimed that her scenes in the trailer were not an accurate representation of what happened. She asked the judge to stop any footage of her to be used in the second season and remove her from all promotional materials, teasers and trailers.
The lawsuit was dropped a month later.