Guess Who Carole Baskin of Netflix’s ‘Tiger King’ Donated To

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

By Keya Vakil

April 15, 2020

Sen. Burr is a co-sponsor of the Big Cat Public Safety Act, a bill that Baskin has championed for several years. 

Carole Baskin, one of the most controversial characters in Netflix’s enormously popular “Tiger King” docuseries, donated $1,000 to North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr.

Baskin donated $1,000 to Burr on Feb. 5, according to Burr’s latest filing with the Federal Election Commission. Her donation was first reported by Dave Levinthal of Public Integrity.

Less than a month ago, Baskin was a virtual unknown to most Americans, but “Tiger King,” released on March 20, quickly captured the zeitgeist and made her a household name. The series focused on the bizarre feud between Baskin and the show’s main character, Joe Exotic, the owner of a big cat zoo in Oklahoma. 

During the show, Exotic repeatedly accuses Baskin of murdering her ex-husband, Don Lewis, and feeding his body to her tigers. Lewis went missing in 1997 and has since been declared dead. Exotic, meanwhile, was convicted last year of attempting to hire a hitman to kill Baskin in 2017 and is now serving a 22-year sentence in federal prison. 

If this sounds made up, it’s somehow not, and the show’s absurd and colorful cast of characters made it a sensation with more than 34 million Americans watching “Tiger King” in the first 10 days

In several sequences during the series, Baskin is shown lobbying for the Big Cat Public Safety Act, a bill that would prohibit the ownership of big cats—such as tigers, lions, and cheetahs—as pets and make it illegal for big cat exhibitors to allow the public to interact with cubs. Sen. Burr is one of the bill’s co-sponsors in the Senate, which may explain Baskin’s donation. 

Baskin, who considers herself an animal rights activist, owns and operates Big Cat Rescue, a non-profit animal sanctuary near Tampa, Florida. This work, and her advocacy for the Big Cat Public Safety Act, means she’s no stranger to the world of politics. She has donated to several other politicians as well, including a $1,000 donation to New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker’s 2020 presidential campaign in January, and December donations to Republican Senators Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Susan Collins of Maine and John Barrasso of Wyoming.

Baskin’s donation to Burr comes despite the fact the senator has said he will not seek re-election in 2022 and raised only about $7,000 during the first quarter.

Burr has drawn significant criticism during the coronavirus pandemic after he dumped as much as $1.7 million in stocks just days after reassuring the public that the government was prepared for the coronavirus.

Burr denied any wrongdoing, but has been accused of engaging in insider trading by using secret information obtained in his role as a senator to make financial decisions. 

Baskin isn’t the only controversial Tiger King character to donate to Burr. Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, a big cat trainer and zookeeper based in Myrtle Beach, S.C., also donated $2,500 to Burr in 2016.


  • Keya Vakil

    Keya Vakil is the deputy political editor at COURIER. He previously worked as a researcher in the film industry and dabbled in the political world.

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