Carole Baskin probably wasn’t expecting to become a household name in 2020, but once it happened, the Tiger King star took full advantage of her newfound fame.
These days, Baskin is competing on Dancing With the Stars, which basically means she’s sauntering around the stage in flower crowns and making tiger claw gestures at the camera to the tune of various cat-themed pop hits.
Carole is not a huge hit with viewers, mostly because she stretches the definitions of both "dancing" and "star" to their breaking point.
But there’s one family in particular whose contempt for Baskin matches that of Joe Exotic, who famously branded her with the nickname "that b–tch."
We’re talking, of course, about the loved ones of the late Don Lewis, who was declared legally dead in 2002 after going missing five years earlier.
During her first episode, Lewis’ family aired an ad offering $100,000 reward for information about his disappearance.
Now, Lewis’ daughters are suing Baskin, alleging that she has been "complicit with jokes" about Lewis’ death during her appearances on DWTS.
According to legal documents obtained by Entertainment Tonight, Baskin made offensive comments about her former husband”s disappearance "when judges brought up TikTok videos inspired by her storyline in Tiger King."
The family alleges that Baskin also made jokes about Lewis during a recent Good Morning America interview, when she stated that she would "really kill it next week" alluding to the upcoming round of the dancing competition.
Jon Phillips, an attorney for Lewis’ family, alleges that the current suit stems from a previous 1998 settlement in which Baskin paid out $50,000 after making slanderous statements about Lewis.
"These exact same false statements, and additional ones, are being made again in 2020. It is malicious," Phillips says.
"Making matters worse, Howard Baskin is making these same statements publicly, as is Big Cat Rescue. As such, they have been added as Defendants."
Phillips also alleges that Baskin has made untrue statements about Lewis and his disappearance on her social media pages:
"Carole Baskin goes on YouTube, Facebook and does blogs every single day getting out her narrative. It’s landed her on a major TV show, Dancing with the Stars," he says.
"She was the featured person in all the commercials and last to dance," Phillips says.
"All the messaging about Carole and her fame comes at their peril. There was Tiger King — and it focused on the exotic animal industry — but a lot of it was about the death and disappearance of Don Lewis," he adds.
"A lot of her contention with Joe Exotic was about whether she was involved in Don Lewis’ death."
Exotic famously claimed that Baskin fed her husband to tigers, an allegation that has never been corroborated in any meaningful way.
While a recent 48 Hours report claimed to have new evidence that Baskin killed her husband, it seems unlikely that she’ll ever be charged with the crime.
"The family never really got the chance to know and years have gone by," Lewis continues.
"Since Tiger King, Carole has done daily diary entries and was going to use this show as a springboard to her message. So [Lewis’ family] wanted their message out there," he says of the families’ decision to take out an ad.
"They wanted, at least locally, to counter message Carole Baskin’s, in their mind, lies and fraud."
From there, Phillips’ blasted DWTS and its producers for joking about a man’s death on network television.
"Dancing with the Stars producers, you think it’s funny to say ‘she killed it’ and to use part of that TikTok rhyme that is derogatory to Carole in in the judging, but let’s stop and realize that there is an actual death involved here and be serious and maybe somebody will come forward," he expressed.
"If not, at least people today will be talking about Don Lewis and not just Carole Baskin."
Baskin has been hesitant to comment on the situation, but she did briefly remark on the Lewis family’s ad during a recent interview with ET:
"I have not seen the ad. I am not at all surprised," Baskin said.
"It’s just been a huge publicity stunt on their part so what more could they possibly do than that?"
We’ll have further updates on this developing story as more information becomes available.