LIVE

"Remember, this is not a documentary. This is a salacious, outrageous ride through a television show," Doc Antle said

By Natalie Stone
March 31, 2020 08:20 PM
Advertisement

Tiger King subjects Bhagavan “Doc” Antle and Jeff Lowe are speaking out against the Netflix documentary.

More than a week after the seven-part docuseries was released on the streaming network, Antle is slamming the project and how he was portrayed to audiences, many of whom have binge-watched the show as they adhere to social-distance and self-quarantine guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Remember, this is not a documentary. This is a salacious, outrageous ride through a television show produced to create drama, to just tie you in to some crazy train wreck of a story between the feud of Carole Baskin and Joe Exotic, and the meltdown that ensued between two people who both are far too close to murder themselves, and I think a little bit of madness thrown in on their parts,” Antle said in a video interview with TMX.news.

Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness — from co-directors and writers Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin — examines the life and crimes of Joseph Maldonado-Passage, a former country musician, Oklahoma zookeeper, gun enthusiast and big-cat keeper known as Joe Exotic. Maldonado-Passage owned an exotic animal park and boasted of having the largest number of big cats in America. He was found guilty in 2019 for paying a hitman $3,000 to kill Carole Baskin, who he considered his rival.

Maldonado-Passage — who alleges in the Netflix series Baskin killed her 60-year-old husband, Jack “Don” Lewis, and disposed of his remains by feeding them to her tigers and lions — is now serving 22 years in prison for the attempted murder plot. (She flatly denies the accusation, and has never been charged.)

The series also gave audiences a behind-the-scenes look at Antle’s Myrtle Beach Safari. Reflecting on the docuseries, Antle alleged to TMX.news that he “worked with the director for two and a half years, saw him probably five or six times for several days in a row each time. That endless portrayal of a program that he was doing with us was purely about a wildlife conservation show about our work that we’re doing in Sumatra, Africa to save endangered species there. It was all about how the tigers that we have here have raised so much money that we’ve been able to go to Sumatra and create a new ranger station there … and that was the documentary that I worked on, and all of that stuff somehow found its way to the cutting room floor.”

Antle alleged that he didn’t know they were shooting Tiger King when he was being filmed: “It was not mentioned in any capacity that this show that I was working on would portray anything about Carole or Joe. Questions about Carole and Joe were a dozen or so thrown into hundreds of others, and I repeatedly told them I have no desire to be involved in some show where you’ve got the feud of Carole and Joe going on, it’s not my thing, leave me out of it. Over and over, that was the intention, and that’s what we worked towards.”

Antle also denied allegations that he and other big cat zookeepers euthanize their animals, calling those claims “outrageous TV.”

“They pushed several notions, the worst of which is that somehow tiger cubs exist in copious amounts and that these tiger cubs have a value only as children, and that that is a super short time, and then they’re just killed off afterwards,” he said. “Nothing more ridiculous has ever been said. No one does that.”

And when it came to his personal portrayal as polygamist with a cult of female employee followers, Antle said the docuseries didn’t paint the whole picture of his animal park.

“I’m a single guy. My wife died 25 years ago, the mother of my son and daughter, my youngest ones, and I’ve never been married since. I have girlfriends, I’m a single guy. This massive judgmentalness [sic] of somehow I’m not supposed to have girlfriends or something is just off my rocker here with how they got to this point,” he said. “They are just looking for something to be outrageous. The girls that they are showing throughout the facility … these are the girls that are the wives of staff who live here, these are my grandchildren, these are my grandchildren’s fiancés, this are my son’s fiancée, this is a variety of ladies who devote their time here that are part of a team. The team is half men. Did you see any men in the series? They cut them all out to make it appear that this is a girl place.”

The filmmakers have already released a statement addressing Baskin’s own criticism of the documentary. “I would just say we were completely forthright with the characters,” Chaiklin said. “With any project that goes on for five years, things evolve and change, and we followed it as any good storyteller does. We could have never known when we started this project that it was going to land where it did.”

Added Goode: “Carole talked about her personal life, her childhood, abuse from her first and second husband, the disappearance of her ex, Don Lewis. She knew that this was not just about … it’s not a Blackfish because of the things she spoke about. She certainly wasn’t coerced.”

Closing his interview with TMX.news, Antle denied that his park was “raided” like the documentary stated at the end of the series.

Dr Bhagavan Antie
Dr. Bhagavan Antle
| Credit: Dr. Bhagavan Antie/Instagram

“There was an inquiry made by the state of Virginia that came and asked us to participate in sharing some DNA samples about some lions that were part of another case. I was never accused of any wrongdoing, no one was blaming me for anything. They wanted us to participate in gathering that DNA. No cubs were ever euthanized, they roll that at the end. They know that that’s not true and that euthanizing cubs is illegal, immoral and absolutely never happens here and never has,” he said.

Jeff Lowe, Maldonado-Passage’s ex-business partner who now runs his zoo, was also featured in the documentary alongside his wife, Lauren Lowe. Maldonado-Passage has filed a federal lawsuit against various government agencies, as well as Jeff. In the documents, he accused Jeff of filing false statements to federal agents. “He was the main person in this entrapment scheme to take my zoo for free,” Maldonado-Passage alleged. “Changed my medicine with illegal drugs, stole my animals under fraudulent reasons.”

Currently, Maldonado-Passage — who was also found guilty of killing tigers to make room for more big cats at his exotic animal park — is in in the Grady County Jail in Oklahoma.

Speaking with TMX.news in a separate interview, Jeff and Lauren reflected on the docuseries.

RELATED VIDEO: Jeff and Lauren Lowe Talk Tiger King Docuseries

“They touched on about 10 percent of the story and, you know, the portrayal of us stealing the zoo from Joe was very unfair because we came here to help him, we got it back on its feet. We left to move away because we didn’t want to be in a zoo in Oklahoma, so the notion that we tried to steal the zoo from him is just ridiculous. But, you know, here we are in a zoo in Oklahoma,” Jeff said.

Jeff Lowe and Lauren Lowe: (1)
Jeff Lowe

“I’m an easy to get along with guy. And I’ve always been the person that when you needed help, I was the one whose going to help you. So it just really upset me to find out that the guy I was trying to help avoid the claws of this woman in Tampa that he would, once I turned my back, that he would stick so many blades into it,” he said of Maldonado-Passage.

Jeff also discussed cooperating with the federal government’s investigation into Maldonado Passage. “We were being looked at by the feds just like Joe was, so we knew that and we had to protect ourselves. And if it means turning over a guy to the federal authorities that killed not just five tigers — five tigers was just the tip of the iceberg. You know, he’s killed a hundred tigers here that were not beneficial to him monetarily,” he alleged, “and you know it’s just the five that they picked, we knew exactly where they were buried and we knew exactly how they died, so it was the five easiest to prosecute him and convict him on.”

Addressing Maldonado-Passage’s murder for hire charge, Jeff said “everybody in the park knew, everybody in Oklahoma knew of Joe’s desire to have [Carole Baskin] killed.”

Jeff Lowe and Lauren Lowe: (2)
Jeff Lowe

“I’m not going to say for one minute that we didn’t all talk about it every day, every day that we were here,” Jeff said. “Lauren and I weren’t here for almost a year and a half. But while we were here, Joe would every day: ‘We gotta kill that bitch. … She’s gotta go.’ It just became almost normal. He would have staff meetings at the end of the night and the first thing out of his mouth would be, ‘Who’s going to go down and take care of this woman?’ ”

“It was a constant,” Jeff said of Maldonado-Passage’s talk of having Basking killed. “Every day, it wasn’t about caring for the tigers, it wasn’t about taking care of your staff — it was about: ‘How do I eliminate Carole Baskin?’ We all knew it and it just got to the point where once Joe started making aggressive moves towards a plan, we knew we had to get out of here.”

Antle and the Lowes all said they believe Baskin could have killed her husband Don, who disappeared in 1997 and has since been declared dead. (Baskin has adamantly denied having any involvement in his disappearance.)

“Without question,” said Jeff. Added Lauren, “We do believe she did kill her husband, but she had help, she had to have help.”

Said Antle, ” ‘Holy mackerel, Carole killed her husband.’ Sure looks like it.”