Carole Baskin claims that her husband is not dead after all.
“Tiger King” star’s ex-husband, Don Lewis, has reportedly been found alive in Costa Rica, but the discovery is only now becoming widely known.
In a November 2021 interview with ITV’s “This Morning” talk show, Baskin, 61, revealed that her ex-husband, who was declared legally dead in 2002 after disappearing some years earlier, was alive.
Baskin, however, explained to reporters that she was unaware of the alleged revelation until November 2021, when the sequel series aired.
“I was not aware of it until ‘TK2’ aired,” Baskin emailed reporters, pointing to her blog Big Cats Rescue.
Animal rights activist alleged in the resurfaced ITV footage that the Department of Homeland Security had been in touch with her ex-husband.
“One of the really exciting things that came out of ‘Tiger King 2’ is that they produced a letter from Homeland Security and it says that a special agent in charge with the FBI at Homeland Security reached out to the sheriff’s detective George [Jorge] Fernandez, which means this had to have happened after 2002, because Homeland Security wasn’t even around until 2002,” Baskin stated at the time.
“They said my husband, Don Lewis, is alive and well in Costa Rica,” she stated. “And yet all of this drama has been made about me having something to do with his disappearance, when Homeland Security has known where he is.”
He went missing in 1997 at the age of 59, and he would be 84 today if he were still alive.
We have contacted Baskin, the Department of Homeland Security, and the FBI for further comment.
There has been no public statement from Lewis debunking the rumors that he has passed away.
“I don’t know how it is that Homeland Security says he’s alive and well in Costa Rica but I’m glad to hear it,” Baskin stated to ITV. ‘I didn’t think he was capable of supporting himself. He took about a million dollars down 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 penned a blog post on their Big Cats Rescue website in which they questioned why DHS divulged his alleged whereabouts to Netflix, in which Baskin did not participate.
“Also noteworthy is the document they display from Homeland Security, which was not formed as an agency until 2002, five years after Don Lewis’ disappearance, saying they had information that Don Lewis was alive in Costa Rica,” according to the report at the time. “Why is this just appearing?”
We have reached out to Netflix for comment.
Baskin’s blog post about Big Cat Rescue contained screenshots from alleged DHS documents from season two and addressed unverified fan theories and claims that she had killed him.
“And for everyone who still wants to believe that Carole killed Don, then please explain to us why you think armchair detectives, or you are better informed than the Special Agent in Charge at the FBI in this Homeland Security Document which says ‘Don Lewis is currently alive and well in Costa Rica,’” they stated. “This was reported to Jorge Fernandez of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office by the SAC at the FBI according to this letter. While they have purposely redacted the SAC’s name and date, we do know that there wasn’t a Homeland Security until November 2002 which was 5 years after Don Lewis left home in Tampa, FL.”
The news is over a year old, but thanks to now-viral social media posts, people are just now becoming aware of it.
“Was I the only one that didn’t know they found Carole Baskin’s husband living his best life in Costa Rica?!” a user wrote on Twitter.
Someone else wrote, “Hold on, I’m seeing people saying that Carole Baskin’s husband was found ALIVE???”
It was revealed in the first season of the hit Netflix docuseries, which premiered during the height of the Coronavirus outbreak in 2020, that Baskin’s ex-husband had mysteriously disappeared in 1997. The two were married at the time of his disappearance, and she claimed that she never heard from him again.
She has since remarried, having married Howard Baskin in 2004.
As a result of Baskin’s appearance on the series chronicling the trials and tribulations of incarcerated big-cat keeper Joseph Maldonado-Passage, aka Joe Exotic the Tiger King, many people believed Baskin had something to do with her ex’s disappearance. Some even engaged in outlandish conspiracy theories, including an unfounded claim that she had been involved in a murder-for-hire scheme.
Exotic, who is currently serving a 21-year sentence for hiring a hitman to kill Baskin, allegedly fed her ex to the tigers at Big Cat Rescue.
The experience left Baskin so traumatized that she decided to join a “secret” support group for celebrities undergoing similar experiences.
In a statement issued Wednesday, the attorney for Baskin’s arch-nemesis Exotic, shot down the new allegations.
“During the filming of Tiger King, detailed efforts were made to find Don Lewis. They all failed. He is not alive,” according to a Facebook post by attorney John M. Phillips. “The 2021 report by Carole Baskin was further unsupported allegation. It’s being republished as if it has veracity. It doesn’t. The story of the Tiger King is filled with lies, set up and misdirection. We still await a hearing for Joe’s freedom. The lies and set up are spelled out in his Motion for New Trial. Read it. The work is done.”
Additionally, Lewis’ family believed that Baskin had been involved in Lewis’ disappearance, even paying for a TV spot during her debut on “Dancing With The Stars” in 2020 to solicit information and tips from the public.
“Do you know who did this or if Carole Baskin was involved?” asked Phillips during the commercial.
Baskin has vehemently denied these allegations.
“I believe their actions are just a publicity stunt,” wrote the owner of Big Cat Rescue after the commercial aired, “but if it helps us find Don, then that will be a huge relief.”
She did not participate in the second season of “Tiger King” and has expressed her distaste for the narrative spun by Netflix alleging she was responsible for Lewis’ disappearance.
“I told them to lose my number,” Baskin told Page Six in May 2021, six months before the series premiered. “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.”
“Season 2, as expected and indicated in the Trailer, continues to do everything they can to falsely convince the viewer that Carole was involved in Don Lewis disappearance,” according to a statement issued by the Baskins to the Los Angeles Times in 2021.
Furthermore, the second season led to a “surge” of social media haters attacking the animal rights activist.
“Consistent with their prior lack of ethics, the producers continued with the technique they used in Season 1 of having accusatory statements about Carole followed by images or video of her chosen to intentionally reinforce and magnify the accusations,” according to the statement. “The result, predictably, has been a new surge of social media hate directed at Carole the day of the release.”
As a result of the release of the trailer for the second season, Baskin was so enraged with Netflix that she filed a lawsuit against them, as well as Royal Goode Productions, in November 2021.
In her lawsuit, she alleged that her scenes in the trailer did not accurately depict what actually occurred. In her request to the judge, she asked that no footage of her be included in the second season, as well as any promo materials, teasers or trailers featuring her.
After a month, the lawsuit was dropped.