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Don Lewis' Family Sues Carole Baskin For Defamation, And Takes Exception To Her Use Of The Phrase 'Killing It'
Carole Baskin's stint on "Dancing With The Stars" has apparently bothered members of Don Lewis' family.
Don Lewis’ children and his former assistant Anne McQueen claim that Baskin has been "complicit with jokes" about Lewis on the show “when judges brought up TikTok videos inspired by her storyline in ‘Tiger King,’’ according to court documents obtained by Oxygen.com.
A TikTok challenge in which users dance to a revision of Megan Thee Stallion's "Savage" has gone viral.The lyrics have been changed to: "Carole Baskin killed her husband, whacked him. Can't convince me that it didn't happen. Fed him to tigers, they snackin'. What's happening?"
Lewis' family argues in the complaint that Baskin "failed to comment or censure" the judges when they referenced the viral TikTok.
Lewis vanished without a trace in August 1997, a mystery which was explored in the wildly popular Netflix docuseries “Tiger King.” Former big cat breeder Joe Exotic, whose downfall was the primary focus of "Tiger King," is currently serving 22 years in federal prison for hiring a hitman to kill Baskin. The two were embroiled in a rivalry for years and during their feud, Exotic repeatedly accused Baskin of killing Lewis. He even made a country music video featuring a Baskin lookalike feeding what is meant to be Lewis' remains to tigers.
The complaint also references a comment that a judge made after Baskins first dance performance, when she danced a paso doble. Judge Bruno Tonioli told her "For me you didn't quite kill the paso doble, it was kind of sedated." The complaint claims that Baskin neither "corrected" or "condemned" the words "sedated" or "killed" and complained that in a later interview with "Good Morning America," Baskin joked that she would "really kill it next week."
Baskin told Oxygen.com over email that she does not joke about Lewis' disappearance.
“It's a stretch for anyone to say that because I use the common phrase of ‘killing it’ that it refers to Don since I believe he crashed an experimental plane over the Gulf due to his own failing mental capacity,” she wrote. “I didn't kill him or have him killed, so there's no way I'd associate losing him with that word or concept. I was the only person in his life trying to get him to a medical specialist after he'd been diagnosed as Bi-polar with Altered Mental States just 2 months before he went missing.”
She hinted that any “kill” jokes could be more references to Exotic than anything else.
“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 hit men,” she continued.
Baskin added that she turns down Cameo requests from people who want her to make references to Lewis. She said she always rejects the requests and sends the requestor the same message: “The tragic loss of my husband is not something I joke about. I would like to help you with your request so could you cancel this one and perhaps request something that does not ask me to make light of a situation that brought so much sadness to me and our families?"
She added, “People can't even pay me to joke about the tragic loss of my husband and best friend at the time.”
John M. Phillips, who is representing Lewis’ family confirmed to Oxygen.com that Baskin, as well as her current husband Howard Baskin and their animal sanctuary Big Cat Rescue have been sued for “defamation, breach of contract and intentional infliction of emotional distress.”
The lawsuit claims that Baskin has been making false statements about her former husband in the form of video diaries and posts. He told Entertainment Tonight that Baskin settled a libel and slander claim from McQueen in 1998.
"These exact same false statements, and additional ones, are being made again in 2020,” he said. “It is malicious.”
While Phillips clarified to Oxygen.com that the “kill it” comments are not under the umbrella of the defamation claim, “it is part of the overall ambiguity and unnecessary inflammation.”
During Baskin's debut appearance on "Dancing with the Stars," Phillips and Lewis' surviving family members ran an ad requesting information about his disappearance, which mentioned Baskin by name.