Carole Baskin Breaks Down as She Reveals How Tiger King Affected Her Life: 'I Keep It Inside'
On week two of Dancing with the Stars, the big cat enthusiast cries as she opens up about the impact that Tiger King has made on her life
Carole Baskin is tearfully opening up about how Tiger King "affected her life."
In a PEOPLE exclusive sneak peek at week two's episode of Dancing with the Stars, provided by ABC, the Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness star breaks down in tears while speaking about the Netflix docuseries — and the impact it's had on her.
"I keep it inside," Baskin, 59, tells pro dance partner Pasha Pashkov in the teaser, which will air Tuesday morning.
"That is the absolute worst of this," she tearfully says.
Earlier this year, the animal activist — who runs an exotic big-cat sanctuary, Big Cat Rescue, in Citrus Park, Florida — rose to fame on the seven-part show, which focuses on the long-standing, increasingly bitter rivalry between herself and Joseph Maldonado-Passage (also known as “Joe Exotic”), the now-imprisoned founder of an exotic animal park in Oklahoma.
The show also touched on the disappearance of Baskin's late husband, Don Lewis — a 60-year-old millionaire and animal sanctuary owner.
During the Sept. 14 season 29 premiere, Baskin made her debut on the reality dance competition series, performing a paso doble to the tune of Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger." Also during night one, a commercial aired about Lewis, who disappeared in 1997 and was later declared dead. At the time that he went missing, Lewis and Baskin were married.
In the "Justice for Don Lewis" ad, Lewis' family and their attorney, John M. Phillips, asks for tips about his disappearance to be sent to 646-450-6530 or 1-800-litigate. Currently, the family is offering a $100,000 reward for information about his whereabouts.
Lewis' three daughters and former assistant all appear in the commercial, before the attorney says: "Don Lewis mysteriously disappeared in 1997. His family deserves answers, they deserve justice. Do you know who did this or if Carole Baskin was involved?"
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Lewis vanished on Aug. 18, 1997. Deputies found his van abandoned at a nearby airport, where he had allegedly planned to take a trip to Costa Rica. Police found no signs of a struggle inside — nor did they find proof that he ever left the country.
In the intervening decades, his disappearance has remained a mystery. But since the release of Tiger King earlier this year, police are hoping for a break in the case. (The series also revealed the present friction between Lewis' family and Baskin.)
Speaking with PEOPLE in April, Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said that Baskin is not a suspect in her late husband's death.
“Once I saw how popular this Netflix documentary series has become, I’m like, ‘Listen, we need to take advantage of this,’” Chronister said. “I just thought, Wouldn’t it be phenomenal if we could glimmer some type of evidence, an interview, anything that would help us solve this disappearance case?’”
At the end of March, Chronister asked on Twitter that anyone with any information about Lewis’ disappearance come forward.
“We’re getting about six tips a day,” he said. “So far, nothing viable. More theory-driven. But I’m going to be honest with you: I remain optimistic. Somebody’s going to watch this show and it’s going to prompt them to call us.”
Chronister said there are many unanswered questions, but one thing he’s certain about is that Lewis didn’t voluntarily disappear: He was murdered. He also does not believe Lewis would have abandoned his children or left his millions of dollars behind.
“I believe it was a homicide,” he said. “Now how and who’s responsible for it? That’s the unknown part right now. I wish I had more answers. I only hope, with the popularity of this Netflix series, that I’ll get those answers.”
Lewis’ family has long suspected that Baskin had something to do with his disappearance. In Tiger King, Maldonado-Passage accused her of disposing of his body by feeding it to her big cats. Baskin has long denied the rumors.
Chronister told PEOPLE Baskin is “not a suspect at this time.” He added, “We don’t have any evidence to even call her a person of interest.”
Recently speaking with PEOPLE, Baskin further condemned her portrayal on the Netflix series, saying, "I am not at all the person I was portrayed in Tiger King."
"I am not the money grubbing, gold-digging, murderous person that they portrayed. I am the type of person who will come after any person who is abusing animals. I am relentless. I just won’t stop until I find some legal way to make it stop," she continued. "From that perspective, I think they got me right. Me as a person, that was a total assassination of my character for nothing other than whatever money they could get for selling that to Netflix.”
Dancing with the Stars airs Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
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