Tiger King's Rick Kirkham claims Joe Exotic is SCARED of tigers

Tiger King’s Rick Kirkham claims Joe Exotic is SCARED of tigers in real life… as he claims the star was only with the big cats if they were ‘blind or sedated’

  • WARNING: This article contains spoilers regarding the Netflix series Tiger King 

Tiger King’s Rick Kirkham has claimed that the show’s star Joe Exotic was actually scared of tigers in real life, despite his image as being aligned with the big cats.

In the Netflix show, journalist and producer Kirkham was seen capturing footage of Exotic’s every move over the span of five years, for an ill-fated reality show.

And he has now insisted to Extra’s Billy Bush that larger-than-life Exotic, real name Joseph Maldonado-Passage, was only around tigers if they were ‘blind or sedated’.

Shock claim: Tiger King’s Rick Kirkham has claimed that the show’s star Joe Exotic was actually scared of tigers in real life, despite his image as being so closely aligned with the big cats

He said of the persona of Joe Exotic, who he brands ‘evil’: ‘You were lured into this surreal world of Joe Exotic and he acted on camera like he ran the world, he wasn’t scared of anything…

‘He was very scared of the tigers, very afraid. The ones he would get into the cages with were blind or sedated. It was all just a façade.’

Going on to destroy the purported illusion even more so, Kirkham also said that the iconic image of Exotic on his throne surrounded by tigers took some coordinating.

Paws for thought: Tiger King star Joe Exotic is pictured in an undated photograph with one of the tigers at his former park in Oklahoma

Kirkham, who is no longer on speaking terms with Exotic, claimed: ‘What people don’t know is behind that chair was the actual trainer. Those weren’t [Joe’s] tigers.

‘Those were someone else’s tigers that they could control and he was behind there with a gun and had the tigers chained, because Joe was terrified to get in cages with tigers.’

Had Kirkham’s reality TV footage not been destroyed in a suspicious fire on Exotic’s Oklahoma property, he believes that audiences would have been watching a far more different series to the version currently on Netflix.

He said: ‘It would have been more violent and probably expose a lot more things than what you saw in the documentary series Tiger King. We had footage… and Joe knew it. That’s what the argument was about a few days before the fire.

Interview: Kirkham has insisted to Extra’s Billy Bush that larger-than-life Exotic, real name Joseph Maldonado-Passage, was only around tigers if they were ‘blind or sedated’


Footage: In the Netflix show, journalist and producer Kirkham was seen capturing footage of Exotic’s every move over the span of five years, for an ill-fated reality show

‘I finally told him, “Look, I own you right now” and he got upset, and I said, “If I would let the video out that I have shot of you killing animals in this park, of you tricking people by taking in their animals, you probably would go to jail,” and he just went berserk.’

Kirkham’s interview comes after the directors of Tiger King claimed Exotic is ‘categorically racist’ after a clip emerged of him ranting about not being allowed to use the N-word. 

Joe, 57, was filmed mouthing off in a bizarre clip about a perceived injustice in not being able to use the racial slur while black rappers can use the racist insult in their music.

Joe is currently serving 22 years for 17 counts of animal abuse and a murder-for-hire plot of his arch-nemesis Carole Baskin, a big-cat campaigner from Tampa, Florida.

Directors of Tiger King, Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin, have confirmed Joe is a ‘categorical racist’. 

Afraid: Kirkham said of Exotic, ‘He was very scared of the tigers, very afraid. The ones he would get into the cages with were blind or sedated. It was all just a façade’

They decided to leave many examples of his bigotry out of the show because they deemed it irrelevant to the story. 

Chaiklin told The Hollywood Reporter : ‘Joe is a racist, I would say categorically. He said things when we were filming that were very unsettling.’

When asked why the scenes were left out, she said: ‘They didn’t have a context in the story, but he has a lot to learn. 

‘I think most of it was ignorance and not having a lot of exposure, and I think he even evolved over the course of the time that we filmed.’

In the original video, which is titled ‘Message to Donald Trump Day 29’, he starts the rant: ‘I can’t say the N-word?’ 

Lured: He said of the persona of Joe Exotic, ‘You were lured into this surreal world of Joe Exotic and he acted on camera like he ran the world, he wasn’t scared of anything’

‘But you can get on Youtube and watch any black man’s rap video and they’re calling each other the n-word.

‘What the hell? Is this discrimination? I’m white and I can’t say the n-word and they can?’

He then continues his tirade but refocusing on the Department of Agriculture. The video is 13 minutes long and includes Joe airing his grievances at various leaders and departments in American politics and society.      

In an earlier interview, Goode noted that he, and viewers, have a certain degree of sympathy for Joe.

To the Hollywood Reporter, Goode sought to remind Joe’s new fans of his previous actions, which he described as ‘cruel’. 

Bizarre: Exotic made the comments in a bizarre 13-minute video, where he questioned why white people in the US can’t say the N-word

‘We had empathy for Joe, but Joe did a lot of horrible things,’ he said. 

‘Joe committed some really serious crimes and Joe was not only cruel and inhumane to his animals, he was cruel to the people around him.’  

On Thursday, Joe was removed from precautionary coronavirus isolation and transferred to a prison medical centre.

The 57-year-old former zookeeper is currently receiving care at the Federal Bureau of Prisons-operated Federal Medical Centre Forth Worth in Texas, according to inmate records obtained by the New York Post.

According to Joe’s fourth husband Dillon Passage, 24, Exotic was being held in isolation at the Grady County Jail in Chickasha, Oklahoma due to his previous jail having had COVID-19 cases. 

Pictured: A still from the Tiger King documentary showing Carole Baskin, the arch nemesis of Joe Exotic, animal rights campaigner and CEO of Big Cats Rescue

A Grady County Jail staff member revealed via phone that Joe was ‘no longer here at this facility’ and that the facility itself has ‘no comment’ on the matter.  

Passage, during an interview with Andy Cohen last Friday, revealed that Exotic was in a ’14-day coronavirus quarantine in jail’ and had not yet seen the seven-part series based on his dramatic downfall.

But, even without having watched a single scene of the Netflix docu-series, Passage said the attention alone had made Joe an instant fan. 

‘Joe’s the type of person, he loves the attention obviously,’ he explained to Cohen during his SiriusXM show.

Passage continued: ‘Any kind of fame or spotlight that he has, it was greatly appreciated.’ 

Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness entered Netflix’s queue on March 20, was met with immediate popularity, and continues to sit at number one.

The day prior to the docu-series’ premiere date, Exotic filed a lawsuit against the federal government and asked president Donald Trump for an official pardon, according to New York Post. 

Specifically, the Oklahoma native wants Trump to pardon his murder-for-hire conviction, as well as his Endangered Species Act violations.

The lawsuit, announced on Joe’s Facebook page, ‘is demanding a combined $94 million from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.’

Joe wrote of his lawsuit: ‘This lawsuit has been filed in the name of Justice, The Trump Administration must be made aware of the Overreach, perjury, abuse of power and the failure to uphold the Oath of their position which is truth and Justice for all.’       

Jailed: Exotic was convicted in an unsuccessful murder-for-hire plot against Carole Baskin, the founder of Big Cat Rescue, who he has accused of killing her husband Jack ‘Don’ Lewis

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