CLAIM: Donald Trump pardoned “Tiger King” star Joe Exotic before leaving office as president of the United States.
THE FACTS: Social media posts circulating widely on Wednesday falsely claimed the eccentric Oklahoma zookeeper featured in the 2020 Netflix documentary “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness” received a pardon from Donald Trump in his last hours as president. “Joe Exotic’s team thanks Donald Trump for his pardoned signature & will be released from jail in Ft Worth, TX,” read a tweet shared hundreds of times on Wednesday.
But Joe Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, was not on Trump’s final pardon list, according to reporting by the AP. Maldonado-Passage is serving a 22-year sentence in a Texas federal prison for violating federal wildlife laws and for trying to arrange the killing of his chief rival, Florida animal sanctuary founder Carole Baskin. Baskin wasn’t harmed.
Maldonado-Passage has maintained his innocence and requested a pardon in September. His team was so confident in a pardon this week that they had prepared a celebratory limousine for the occasion. When news broke that he wouldn’t be released on Wednesday, Maldonado-Passage’s backers — who call themselves “Team Tiger” — released a statement expressing their disappointment. “140 million Joe Exotic fans had a hard time getting out of bed this morning,” the statement said.