Carole Baskin – from Netflix docuseries Tiger King – has been sued for defamation by a former assistant.
The claimants in the lawsuit include Ms Baskin’s former employee Anne McQueen and the three daughters of her former husband Don Lewis.
Mr Lewis went missing more than two decades ago and in March, Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister announced his office was seeking new leads following the popularity of the show Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.
In the lawsuit, Ms McQueen said she was defamed after Ms Baskin posted a video diary on YouTube claiming her assistant had played a part in Mr Lewis’ disappearance.
Those allegations were repeated on the website of Big Cat Rescue – the tiger sanctuary owned by Ms Baskin – along with claims she embezzled money, according to the legal filings.
The suit stated: “Despite contentions to the contrary, the truth has never been explored in any court and there is a good faith basis to believe the truth will open up many viable remedies.”
As part of the lawsuit, Mr Lewis’ daughters Donna Pettis, Lynda Sanchez and Gale Rathbone are seeking more information about what happened to their father.
The show soared in popularity earlier this year after launching on Netflix as coronavirus lockdowns were imposed around the world.
It centred on Joseph “Joe Exotic” Maldonado-Passage, a former zookeeper in Oklahoma who was convicted of trying to hire someone to kill Ms Baskin.
Ms Baskin had tried to shut down Maldonado-Passage’s zoo, accusing him of abusing animals and selling big cat cubs.
In retaliation, he made repeated accusations in the show that Ms Baskin had killed her previous husband and fed his remains to her tigers.
Ms Baskin has never been charged and released a statement denying the allegations. The case file remains open.
She is competing on Dancing with the Stars this year. Earlier this year, Maldonado-Passage was sentenced to 22 years in prison for trying to hire the hit man and killing tiger cubs.
In an email to Associated Press, Ms Baskin said she would never joke about the loss of her husband.
She said: “I didn’t kill him or have him killed, so there’s no way I’d associate losing him with that word or concept.
“Any Tiger King reference to killing or murder is strictly based on the fact that so many animal abusers have tried unsuccessfully to kill me either by rallying their minions or hiring hitmen.”
Source : Sky News