FACT CHECK: Did Trump Tweet That He Has ‘Decided To Pardon Joe Exotic’?

Matt Noel | Fact Check Reporter

An image shared on Facebook claims President Donald Trump tweeted, “I would like to announce immediately that due to the Chinese Virus outbreak I have decided to pardon Joe Exotic.”


Verdict: False

There is no record of Trump tweeting the statement. The tweet has been fabricated.

Fact Check:

The Netflix docuseries “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness” focuses on former Oklahoma zookeeper Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as “Joe Exotic.” His nemesis in the show is Big Cat Rescue owner and animal rights activist Carole Baskin, whose second husband, Don Lewis, disappeared in August 1997.

Maldonado-Passage was sentenced in January to 22 years in prison for attempting to hire someone to murder Baskin, plus multiple violations of wildlife laws, according to the Justice Department. In late March, the former zookeeper requested a presidential pardon from Trump and announced a lawsuit seeking $94 million in damages from several government agencies and former colleagues, the New York Post reported.

The alleged tweet, which has been shared over 250 times on Facebook, masquerades as an March 30 announcement from Trump, saying, “I would like to announce immediately that due to the Chinese Virus outbreak I have decided to pardon Joe Exotic (Tiger King) and will have General Attorney Barr look into the bitch Carol ‘Fuckin’ Baskin for the disappearance of her husband Don.”

However, the tweet appears to have been fabricated. The Daily Caller didn’t find the announcement on Trump’s verified Twitter accounts, and ProPublica’s archive has no record of him deleting it. (RELATED: Was Joe Exotic Transferred To The Cass County Jail In Texas?)

The White House has not made any announcement about pardoning Maldonado-Passage. Nor has the Justice Department indicated it will look into Baskin or the disappearance of Lewis, whose case remains open despite being declared legally dead in 2002.

At a White House press briefing on April 8, New York Post reporter Steven Nelson asked Trump if he was considering a pardon for Maldonado-Passage, mentioning that Donald Trump Jr. had joked about lobbying the president for the pardon.

Trump jokingly responded, “I’ll take a look.”

Matt Noel

Fact Check Reporter
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