Ever since Tiger King premiered on Netflix, it’s become somewhat of a cultural phenomenon. It is centered around Joseph Maldonado-Passage, aka Joe Exotic, an Oklahoma zookeeper who hired a hitman to kill his rival, Carole Baskin. On his HBO talk show, Bill Maher questioned the series popularity and compared Maldonado-Passage to Darth Vader. 

Tiger King : Joe Exotic
Joe Exotic | Netflix

‘Tiger King’ follows Joseph Maldonado-Passage’s journey to prison

The Netflix docuseries is centered around Maldonado-Passage and his G.W. Zoo in Wynnewood, Oklahoma. It follows the bizarre events that led the zookeeper to commit the crimes that landed him in prison.

Maldonado-Passage was in a long-running feud with Carole Baskin, the founder of Big Cat Rescue in Florida. Because she believed the zookeeper was breeding his tigers, lions, and other big cats for profit, Baskin became an outspoken critic.

Eventually, Maldonado-Passage hired two hitmen to kill Baskin. One of the hitmen was an undercover agent. And after the other hired hitman, Allen Glover, testified against him, Maldonado-Passage was arrested and charged.  

The ‘Tiger King’ star went to prison for more than one crime

The murder-for-hire scheme led to Maldonado-Passage’s arrest, but he was actually charged with more than just that crime. In fact, the zookeeper was charged, convicted, and sentenced on 19 different criminal counts

He may have claimed to respect his animals, but Maldonado-Passage was convicted on nine counts of animal endangerment. According to the U.S Department of Justice, during his trial, “the jury heard evidence that Maldonado-Passage personally shot and killed five tigers in October 2017, without a veterinarian present and in violation of the Endangered Species Act.”

Joe Exotic feeding a tiger
Tiger King | Netflix

Maldonado-Passage was also convicted of violating the Lacey Act. As outlined by the U.S. Department of Justice, he falsified records of his wildlife transactions and “designated on delivery forms and Certificates of Veterinary Inspection that tigers, lions, and a baby lemur were being donated to the recipient or transported for exhibition only when he knew they were being sold in interstate commerce.”

Bill Maher compares Maldonado-Passage to Darth Vader

On the April 25 episode of Real Time with Bill Maher, host Bill Maher questioned the popularity of Tiger King. Referring to the current coronavirus pandemic and the wet markets it originated from, Maher pointed out how dangerous Maldonado-Passage’s mistreatment of animals was. 

“Torturing animals is what got us into this mess,” Maher said. “That’s the lesson we keep refusing to learn, that you can’t trash the environment, including animals, and not have it come back and kill you.”

He then compared Maldonado-Passage to Darth Vader and questioned why the “woke” left isn’t more outraged by his actions. “I don’t care that he sees the light at the end…so did Darth Vader,” he said.

“There’s no such thing as keeping a wild animal pent up, but treating them ‘well.’ — Joe Exotic is in prison partly for killing five endangered tigers, which are endangered because of people like him. I don’t get why the woke left loves this show so much and isn’t on this guy like pink sequins.”

Maher, who is a vocal advocate for animal rights, concluded the segment by suggesting people take their “meandering outrage” and focus it on the issue of animal endangerment. “You keep animals in a cage, be they tiger or turkeys, look who winds up being the prisoner.”

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