Carole Baskin Responds to Lawsuit From Don Lewis' Family (Exclusive)

Carole Baskin is responding to the defamation lawsuit filed by the family of her missing husband, Don Lewis. News of the lawsuit came shortly before the Big Cat Rescue CEO hit the ballroom floor on Tuesday for Dancing With the Stars‘ live show. Following her performance, ET’s Lauren Zima asked the Tiger King star what she thought of the suit.

“I haven’t made any kind of jokes about Don’s disappearance and it’s been a very personal thing to me for years,” Baskin said, noting that she’s asked about it on Cameo, a site that allows celebrities to send personalized video messages to fans. “On Cameo, people reach out to me all the time and they want me to say things about that and I just decline their request because I’m not going to make fun of something that was so painful for all of us.”

According to court documents obtained by ET, Lewis’ daughters — Gale, Lynda and Donna — as well as Lewis’ former executive assistant, Anne McQueen, claim that Baskin was “complicit with jokes” about her former husband’s death on Dancing With the Stars “when judges brought up TikTok videos inspired by her storyline in Tiger King.”

In their lawsuit, Lewis’ family claims that Baskin didn’t condemn or correct the comments about him while on DWTS. The family also accuses her of being complicit in jokes about Lewis in her Good Morning America interview earlier this month, as she quipped that she’d “really kill it next week” on DWTS.

Baskin learned of the suit “right before” she performed in the ballroom and even kept the news from her partner Pasha Pashkov. 

“You have to ask them what their thinking is and why they would continue to do this,” Baskin said of Lewis’ family, adding that the news “didn’t stop me from doing my best as I did last week.”

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Baskin is new to the dance scene as she revealed to ET that she was not allowed to dance growing up. 

“My mother actually texted me and said how proud she was even though it was a sin in our family for us to dance, so thank you, Mom,” Baskin shared. “It was an absolute sin and I was really concerned over what she was going to think about me being on this show, about dancing. But it was really nice to get that text from her and say she still loves me.”

Despite being in the bottom two, Baskin still thinks she has a chance at the Mirrorball trophy, citing inspiration from the cats she works with. 

“Some of them I feel like, ‘Oh my gosh, that cat is never going to make it.’ And that cat is the one that will just fight till the bitter end and hang in there and turn around and become one of the strongest cats that we have and one of the strongest cats that we release and I am going to channel that energy,” she told ET. 

As for getting vulnerable on camera this week, Baskin admitted that it wasn’t her favorite experience. 

“I tried for a very long time not to cry while we were talking about some of the things that were so personal as far as the negative impact of Tiger King on my family,” she said. “So it was just by virtue of the fact that I was completely worn down and broke down. I regret crying on TV or in front of my family and of course, that just worried them even that much more. When they saw it, they were like, ‘Oh my gosh, she’s breaking down under the pressure there. We’ve gotta get her out.’ And I’m like, ‘No, I’m fine. I’m fine.'”

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