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Exclusive: Joe Exotic speaks from prison on presidential campaign

Exclusive: Joe Exotic speaks from prison on presidential campaign

Posted: Jun 21, 2023 / 08:35 AM MDT

Updated: Jun 21, 2023 / 08:35 AM MDT

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KXRM) — In a FOX21 News exclusive, Joseph Maldonado, famously known as “Joe Exotic” from the hit Netflix show “Tiger King,” called into the FOX21 newsroom from federal prison to talk about his 2024 presidential campaign.

“I’m throwing my hat in the race to be the third person to ever run for president from federal prison,” said Maldonado over the phone.

Joe Exotic running for president, says he’s officially on the Colorado ballot.

On Monday, Maldonado announced that he would be on the ballot in Colorado. However, a statement from the Colorado Secretary of State on Tuesday said his presidential bid is not official because he did not hand in proper paperwork.

Maldonado called from the Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas, a United States federal prison. The former zookeeper is currently serving a 21-year sentence for allegedly hiring a hit man to kill animal rights activist Carole Baskin.

A presidential candidate must be a natural-born citizen of the United States, a resident for 14 years, and 35 years of age or older. As long as someone meets those requirements there are no limitations for convicted felons or for someone campaigning behind bars.

When asked about how he planned on running a campaign from prison, he confessed that it was not easy.

It’s difficult, OK, I’m not going to lie to you. It’s very hard to do this from here, but I’m doing it… Can I win? You know what, things are possible. I wouldn’t do anything if I didn’t want to win. But, it’s a long shot,” said Maldonado.

‘Tiger King’ announces 2024 presidential bid

On the home page of his campaign website, the first line acknowledges the ludicrous – “Yes I know I am in federal prison, and you might think this is a joke but it’s not.”

This isn’t his first rodeo in politics. In 2016, he ran a presidential campaign as an Independent, and then as a Libertarian in 2018 for governor of Oklahoma.

This time around, Maldonado will be running as a Democrat.

Solely because I want to debate and confront President Biden,” he said.

Maldonado has already started to assemble his staff. He said he has sent certified letters asking Rep. Liz Cheney to be his running mate. The spot of the campaign manager is getting filled by his inmate friend, who is currently serving time for white-collar tax fraud and evasion.

“I’ve been in here with another inmate, a federal inmate, for the last year strategizing this campaign. He goes home on the 29 of this month, and he’s going to hit the ground running as my campaign manager,” said Maldonado.

Colorado is the first state Maldonado chose to file in.

“The reason why I picked Colorado? Not only is it probably the most beautiful place on earth, but Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada has some of the best BLM [Bureau of Land Management] land there is,” said Maldonado.

The big cat enthusiast has big ideas for U.S. policy. BLM reform and decriminalizing marijuana nationally are two of his main priorities. His time in prison largely influenced two policies he has in mind surrounding required jail time for politicians.

The first is a mandate that all politicians must spend 30 days in jail before taking office.

“It’s insane how we live in here. These people will all get a taste of the corrupt system that they built,” he said regarding the 30-day jail requirement.

The second is a statute that holds any politician or law enforcement agent that takes an oath of office to uphold the Constitution. He said the punishment for violation would be a 10-year minimum sentence in jail.

“I am trying to appeal to anyone that owns a business or works in this country that is getting screwed,” said Maldonado, hoping that he can also garner support from his fans. “With the millions of people that watch ‘Tiger King’ and the hundreds of thousands of letters that I answered over the last three years, can we give it a shot so the American people can finally have a voice? Absolutely.”

Despite his 21-year sentence, Maldonado has calculated that he will be out of jail in time to get to the White House.

“I will actually walk out of here in a year and a half,” said Maldonado, who said he is banking on the passage of criminal justice reform bills and amendments to federal sentencing guidelines.

The Colorado Secretary of State’s Office said they received the $500 check that is required to get on the ballot but will be, “returning the check with instructions for steps the candidate must take in order to be on the ballot,” said Jack Todd, the deputy communications director for the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office.

The department added that they will only place candidates on the ballot who are bona fide members of a major political party, a list that is provided by each respective party.

“If a candidate is not a bona fide member of a major party, they have the option to become a write-in candidate,” said Todd.

Regardless, Maldonado is blazing ahead on the campaign trail. At the bottom of his announcement for the Colorado ballot, he added, “P.S. Next up on the list to get on the ballot is New Hampshire.”

FMC Fort Worth federal prison limits all inmate phone calls to 15 minutes until it drops the line. In lieu of a campaign slogan, these were his final words, “I’m innocent. I’d like everybody to go to my website,, and look at the evidence of it-“

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