‘Dancing with the Stars’ has made some questionable casting decisions over the years, the worst of which until now was former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.
Then they decided to invite Carole Baskin to join this season’s cast of so-called stars.
Baskin is famous for her involvement in the viral Netflix hit The Tiger King. Her feud with Joe Exotic is the stuff of internet legend. Among the sordid accusations traded between them is Exotic’s long-held belief that Baskin murdered her husband and fed him to her tigers.
In any other news cycle, Tyra Banks debut as the new host of the show would have been the biggest story about the DwtS premiere. Original host Tom Bergeron, as well as his co-host Erin Andrews, were abruptly fired over the summer. They were replaced with America’s Next Top Model host Banks, who is known for her scene-stealing personality and dramatic flair.
Banks was raked over the coals on social media by fans of the show, but the conversation quickly shifted to Carole Baskin. Specifically, whether ABC invited a literal murderess to compete in a ballroom dance competition on national television.
The family of Don Lewis, Carole’s former husband, knew that Tiger King fans would be watching. His daughters (Gale, Lynda, and Donna) as well as his former assistant and a lawyer for the family banded together.
They made a commercial and bought airtime in several Florida markets, where Baskin lives, to ask for anyone with information about Lewis to come forward.
After the four women introduce themselves and speak briefly about their father, John Phillips steps in to ask for help in finding justice for Lewis. They’re offering a $100,000 reward. And although they don’t outright accuse Carole Baskin of killing her husband, the lawyer specifically asks if anyone has proof that she was involved.
“Somebody out there knows. We need help. We need help solving this,” Phillips said in an interview on 48 Hours. “Somebody knows more about Don’s last hours on Earth and we should care about what happened. We all should care and we should all help solve this cold case.”
Lewis disappeared in 1997, just before a planned trip to Costa Rica. He was never found.
Dancing with the Stars producers know that most of the viewers were tuning in to see Baskin. They saved her “performance” until last. She danced the paso doble to Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” while wearing a tiger-themed outfit and a flower crown. Partnered with pro dancer Pasha Pashkov, the pair earned the lowest score of the night with just 11 points.
The dancing was terrible. The design was tacky and predictable. But it was a ratings win for the show’s 29th season, up 30% from last season. The internet has embraced Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin as if they were characters in a kooky scripted TV.
But as Gale, one of Lewis’s daughters reminds us in the commercial, they are a real family. These women lost their father, and their pain can only be magnified by the spectacle of Baskin hamming it up on national television.