Updated: Mar 31
“Tiger King” Joe Exotic — unable to find a president willing to release him from prison — says he’s running for the job himself as a Libertarian in 2024 and that he wants former Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) to be his running mate.
The eccentric former Oklahoma private zoo owner, convicted of hiring a hit man to kill animal rights activist Carole Baskin, has big ideas for US policy — including assassinating Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the war in Ukraine.
Exotic told The Post in a phone interview from his federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas, that he’d like Cheney to be his VP because “the woman has guts.”
“I mean, obviously she’s a Republican and I’m a Libertarian, so we’d have to discuss some items,” he added.
Cheney is the former vice chair of the House select committee that investigated the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 by a mob of then-President Donald Trump’s supporters. Her outspoken criticism of Trump led to her defeat in Wyoming’s House GOP primary last year.
Exotic’s campaign website boasts endorsements from various Instagram personalities, and by his calculations: “if you look my endorsements combined … with their supporters, I already have over 50 million people.”
“I am going to have a voice this time, whether it’s with the Libertarian Party or if I have to change it at the last minute to a different party. I’m going to make America listen to what’s really going on in this country,” he said.
Exotic lashed out at Trump for not pardoning him when he left office in 2021, saying at the time he was “too innocent and too GAY.” He told The Post later that year that Trump was a “fool” to not pardon him before the 2020 election, arguing it would have helped win over voters because “millions of people were hoping for it.”
Exotic, 60, told The Post that he now has no animosity toward Trump, 76, who is seeking a rematch against President Biden, 80.
The big cat enthusiast says he can’t stand another possible 2024 GOP presidential candidate, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, due to his positions on abortion and gay rights, but said that Trump “is workable” and “if I don’t win, I would love to be in his cabinet, you know, because there is a medium ground, you don’t have to be a hard-ass-core-right or a hard-ass-core-left, okay?”
“I want to be secretary of state,” Exotic said. “You know, we got a lot of foreign issues we’ve got to take care of. We can’t keep babysitting everyone.”
Exotic said that he also would be eager to help “clean out” the US Department of Agriculture, which at one point yanked his former zoo’s license.
A source close to Trump told The Post that if Exotic wants Cheney as his running mate, he could count himself out of a potential cabinet post if the 45th president becomes the 47th.
“His chances of being tapped for a spot in [Trump’s] Cabinet would be about as good as [former Illinois GOP Rep. Adam] Kinzinger’s when he was begging half of DC to lobby [Trump] to nominate him for Air Force secretary,” the source said.
Cheney could not be reached for comment on Exotic’s interest in teaming up in the next election and his pro-abortion rights and anti-foreign aid stances would make for an odd match — though on some issues they do align.
Exotic said he’s in prison with one of the rioters who disrupted certification of Biden’s Electoral College win and that he thinks members of the pro-Trump mob deserve longer sentences.
“The sentences are nowhere near tough enough. I’m here with a guy who broke into the Capitol, okay? And he got four years and I got 22 for putting five tigers to sleep because I didn’t do anything else … that was all bulls–t and a lie,” Exotic said.
The famously hawkish former Wyoming congresswoman may find common ground with Exotic on his tough talk toward Putin, though calling for the assassination of a foreign leader may go too far even for the former No. 3 House Republican.
“We’ve taken out other people in the world. Why are we playing with this man? Are we that scared of his nuclear weapons?” Exotic said. “What’s going on Ukraine is wrong.”
Asked by The Post to clarify if he was actually calling for Putin’s assassination, Exotic said, “You got me right.”
Exotic, a self-described “gay, gun-carrying redneck with a mullet,” gained national fame in 2020 with the blockbuster Netflix series “Tiger King,” which chronicled his flamboyant life and his feud with Baskin, who he was convicted of hiring a hit man to kill.
In the followup series “Tiger King 2,” which aired in late 2021, the man who Exotic allegedly paid $3,000 to kill Baskin recanted and said he committed perjury by making the allegation. Allen Glover, an associate of Exotic’s business rival Jeff Lowe, said that he and Lowe actually were scheming to murder Exotic by positioning a wire to decapitate him if he drove by on a four-wheeler at a high speed.
Exotic told The Post he’s being evaluated for possible bladder cancer after receiving prostate cancer treatment — and admits that his candidacy is in part designed to put Biden on blast for not releasing him from prison.
He’s currently due to be behind bars until 2035.
Attorney Molly Palmer, who is representing Exotic in his appeals, said “Joe’s Motion for New Trial remains pending in the Western District of Oklahoma. If denied, we plan to appeal the decision to the 10th Circuit. We also plan to file a petition for habeas corpus and pursue every aspect of post-conviction relief that is available to our client.”
Exotic, whose legal surname is Maldonado-Passage, slammed Biden for failing to follow through on his campaign pledge to release the roughly 2,700 federal marijuana inmates and instead pardoning people with possession convictions, none of whom were in prison.
“To this day he ain’t done nothing. He’s pardoned, what, 6,500 who weren’t even in jail,” he said.
“I hold him 100% [responsible] for what’s going on in this system right now. And him and Vice President Harris are two people that can’t keep a promise,” Exotic went on. “They want to stick up for, you know, ‘We have a black vice president who’s a woman, we put a black lady on the Supreme Court, we made history’. Meanwhile, they’re kidnapping 6,000 black people a month to put in federal prison because somebody’s making a dime somewhere.”
Meanwhile, Exotic said, the rich and powerful in the US — including members of the president’s family — also benefit from a double standard in the legal system.
“You have photographs of Hunter Biden smoking a crack pipe. That’s evidence, OK?” he said. “And you got 50 black people sitting here in the TV room that are serving 10-20 years for conspiracy of ghost dope and get caught with a picture of them smoking dope.”
Despite his name recognition, Exotic faces an uphill battle even for the Libertarian nod and his embrace of Cheney — whose hawkish foreign policy views are abhorred by most libertarians — would get him off the wrong foot with the large third party, which picks nominees in conventions dominated by ideologues.
Without the Libertarian nomination, “he could probably get on in about as many [state ballots] as [2020 independent candidate and rapper] Kanye West got on,” said Ballot Access News editor Richard Winger.
West managed to get on the ballot in just 12 states due to strict signature-gathering rules.