Official Netflix Trailer for Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness
If you’ve been spending your time in quarantine watching the Netflix docuseries Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, you’re not alone. With our headquarters in the Tampa Bay Area, the story was only that much more riveting a watch.
Even before the seven-part docuseries was released, Carole Baskin, the founder and owner of Big Cat Rescue has been an infamous figure in Bay Area life since her second husband’s disappearance in 1997.
Now more than two decades later, that sensational side of Baskin’s narrative had long faded from the media spotlight and remained mostly as unsubstantiated whispers around town. Her appearance in Tiger King once again thrust Baskin into the national spotlight for more than her work to protect big cats.
The current media frenzy could have been prevented, or at least minimized, had Baskin not used her screen time to serve as an unwitting example of exactly what to avoid when your reputation is at stake.
In this three-part blog series, we’ll unpack Baskins’ top seven spokesperson blunders. Yes, there are absolutely more, but we know you didn’t sign up to read a book!
Blunder #1 - Repeating a negative. Baskin willingly addressed rumors of her late husband Don Lewis’ disappearance by providing long explanations of how she would not have been able to dispose of his body using the sanctuary’s meat grinder or, for that matter, hide his body under their septic tank.
Now you may be thinking, doesn’t Baskin have a right to defend herself? Of course she does. But Baskin has made it abundantly clear in her statements since the docuseries aired that she thought she was participating in a project that would shed light on the harm caused by the tiger petting trade hoping the outcome would have the same notoriety as Blackfish, which by most accounts heavily tarnished SeaWorld’s reputation.
Her detailed explanation of how a human hand could not fit through their meat grinder was a stunning example of how repeating a negative can, in some cases, make someone look guilty and, in other cases, further fuel the narrative you’re seeking to ignore.
Even in the bizarre statement that Baskin and her third husband, Howard Baskin, issued in hopes of refuting her missteps on camera in some respects does more harm than good. Take, for example, the infamous meat grinder. It is again highlighted in far too much detail and accompanied by an attention-calling picture of a meat grinder in action.
We have zero information other than what has been presented to the public regarding Lewis’ mysterious disappearance and are not in any position to speculate. As reputation management experts, Baskin’s willingness to repeat and rehash in inordinate detail the worst of the rumors and accusations that were thrown at her does not help to frame her in a positive light.
Blunder #2 - Playing the blame game. It’s common when an individual or organization faces a reputational crisis that the first defensive move is often to point the finger in the other direction. Refusing to take any responsibility while finding someone or something else to shoulder the blame more often than not backfires.
Baskin found countless ways throughout the docuseries and her follow up statement to try to convince her audience in astonishing, and in our opinion, inappropriate detail that there was no love lost between her and her late husband. Assassinating Lewis’ character doesn’t make his disappearance any less tragic, nor does it make Baskin a criminal. When seemingly trying to argue one’s innocence in the court of public opinion, it also wasn’t the smartest angle to present.
These are just the first two reputational blunders Carole Baskin committed during her appearances on the Tiger King docuseries. Stay tuned for our next installment where we’ll continue to dissect Baskin's on and off screen spokesperson missteps that tarnished her character and spokesperson credibility.