Miranda Lambert turned to social media to explain herself after facing backlash over pictures showing her posing with Tiger King star Joseph “Joe Exotic” Maldonado-Passage. The eccentric zookeeper and sometimes-country singer shot to overnight fame with the release of the Netflix reality TV series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness in March and has been the subject of intense national debate.
Lambert posted several photos of herself posing with Maldonado-Passage on Instagram on Monday (April 13), writing, "Here’s a little Monday memory for y’all," adding the hashtags #TigerKing and #WayTooPrettyForPrison. Some followers and other social media users quickly responded, negatively, as Maldonado-Passage is currently serving a 22-year prison term in Oklahoma.
In 2019, a jury convicted Maldonado-Passage of paying $3,000 for the murder of Carole Baskin, the founder of the rival Big Cat Rescue. He was also found guilty of killing tigers so he could have room for more animals at his G.W. Exotic Animal Memorial Park in Wynnewood, Okla., and he’s been accused of animal abuse for the conditions at the zoo.
Lambert is a well-known advocate for animals and the founder of the MuttNation Foundation, which has helped place shelter dogs all over the country. The 36-year-old country superstar turned to Twitter to provide context for the photos several hours later, writing, "Backstory: During Hurricane Harvey, the MuttNation Team went to Houston to help relocate existing shelter dogs to free up shelter space for animals separated by their owners.
“MuttNation asked for volunteers who could transport some dogs from Houston to shelters in Oklahoma, where there was more room and they could be treated and adopted," she adds. "Some guy named Joe volunteered his trailer and staff. Now I know it’s ‘Joe Exotic.’
“I’ve never been to his zoo and I didn’t even know he had tigers,” she explains, writing, “OBVIOUSLY I’d never condone animals being treated badly.”
Maldonado-Passage recently filed a lawsuit against various government agencies, asking for $94 million and claiming loss of property, research, care for his animals, false arrest and imprisonment and selective enforcement, claiming he was targeted because he is openly gay, People reports. In a phone interview from prison on March 22, Maldonado-Passage says that being imprisoned himself has given him a new perspective on the conditions in which he kept his animals.
“Go sit in a cage with your animals for a week,” he reflects. “I mean, when I left the zoo and I sent my chimpanzees to the sanctuary in Florida and imagined what my chimpanzees went through for 18 years, I’m ashamed of myself.”
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