The hit Netflix documentary Tiger King revealed many details on what led to the show’s titular star, Joseph “Joe Exotic” Maldonado-Passage, serving a 22-year jail sentence for allegedly hiring a hitman to kill his longtime rival, animal-rights activist Carole Baskin. However, in a recent interview, Maldonado-Passage’s niece alleged that the former zoo operator was a much worse individual off-camera than how he was portrayed on the show.
In an interview with the Daily Mail published earlier this week, Chealsi Putman claimed that Tiger King merely showed “glimpses” of Joe Exotic’s “evil” persona but didn’t paint the entire picture to viewers. She added that her uncle, in real life, was “100 times worse,” stressing that she wants everyone to know about his other alleged misdeeds.
As explained by Putman, Maldonado-Passage’s intentions when he opened the Greater Wynnewood (G.W.) Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma were good at first, as he seemed to “genuinely” care for the big cats and other animals in the facility. However, she accused her uncle of ultimately prioritizing money over the welfare of the animals, to the point where he was supposedly abusive toward the creatures.
“I’ve personally witnessed Joe spray a tiger with a fire extinguisher, not out of a safety or for a life saving reason, but because the tiger didn’t react the way Joe had wanted it to,” Putman related.
In addition, Putman accused Maldonado-Passage of engaging in other shady tactics while running the G.W. Exotic Animal Park. These included the illegal sale of baby tigers and monkeys and freezing dead tiger cubs under the pretense of submitting them to Texas A&M University for research.
“Over the years there must have been at least 10 tiger cubs that he froze. I have no idea what happened to them, they would just disappear.”
Joe Exotic was interviewed from prison on March 22.
Here's what he told us pic.twitter.com/ueqTeWfKxh
— Netflix (@netflix) April 3, 2020
While Tiger King documented how Maldonado-Passage has been married to multiple men, including current husband Dillon Passage, Putman said that the series ignored how her uncle has a son, 38-year-old Brandon Chappell, with an ex-girlfriend. She related that Maldonado-Passage didn’t keep this a secret from other people, adding that Chappell was featured in a “few scenes” on Tiger King.
As pointed out, Chappell and his wife at the time worked at Joe Exotic’s zoo “just a few years ago” but ultimately left after he fell out with his father over business dealings. According to Putman, Maldonado-Passage wanted his then-daughter-in-law to perform some “fraudulent” financial activities on behalf of the park, thus creating a rift between father and son.
Putman then shared that there was more to Maldonado-Passage’s claim that an argument with former business partner Jeff Lowe over thousands of dollars in allegedly stolen funds had pushed him to leave the zoo in 2018. She said that her uncle had quietly been planning to make his exit “for some time,” due to concern that “the Feds were onto him.”
Maldonado-Passage, 57, was convicted in April 2019 on 17 counts of animal cruelty and two counts of murder-for-hire, as noted by National Geographic.
In conclusion, Putman told the Daily Mail that she has no regrets about working with the FBI to bring her uncle to justice. She added that she finds it disappointing that various celebrities now see him as a cult figure, saying that those who call for his pardon only “look like idiots” for supporting someone like him.