Looks like Netflix has yet another unhappy star on their hands. It turns out, Jeff Lowe isn’t too happy about Tiger King‘s claims that he "set up" Joe Exotic or that he betrayed the former zookeeper in order to send him to prison. Over the course of the outrageous series, viewers saw Joe Maldonado-Passage — better known as Joe Exotic — launch a feud with Big Cat Rescue founder Carole Baskin that lasted years and eventually resulted in him owing millions of dollars before being arrested on murder-for-hire charges. (Maldonado-Passage is currently serving a 22-year prison sentence.)
Lowe and his wife, Lauren Dropla, bought Maldonado-Passage’s Oklahoma zoo from him in order to save him from bankruptcy, but the businessman ended up helping the federal government build a case against Maldonado-Passage. And while he freely admitted to cooperating with the authorities in a new interview with Entertainment Tonight, Lowe maintained that he and Dropla "did not do anything [wrong]. We did not rat on Joe. We did not snitch on Joe." He continued, "It’s sad that people think that we set him up, but what we did was we protected ourselves."
In fact, both Lowe and Dropla criticized Tiger King for misrepresenting them, saying that they "absolutely" felt exploited by the show’s producers. "It’s aggravating because we lived it. We know where the mistakes were. You wanna get up and hit the TV," he said, adding that he and his wife were "not at all" portrayed accurately. "They misled all of us… They just twisted around on us. They tried to make us look like we were complicit."
While the documentary questions Lowe and Dropla’s involvement in Maldonado-Passage’s eventual arrest, he explained to ET that they "had no choice" but to cooperate after they learned their business partner was being investigated. "We had to tell them what we knew," Lowe said. "We handed them over our cell phones, our bank accounts, whatever they asked for we gave them, cooperated fully."
However, the decision to cooperate with authorities was made easier by the fact that Lowe and Dropla "couldn’t deal with" Maldonado-Passage anymore — and had just discovered that he was allegedly embezzling money from them. "We knew at the time that [the feds] had been monitoring the bank account, looking for money coming in from Joe selling tiger cubs," Lowe said, claiming that he was alerted to the investigation by their bank teller. "We went over those bank statements and that’s when we found out that Joe was embezzling [and] forging my name 50 times on $50,000 worth of checks."
Despite the fact that their relationship ended badly — Tiger King features footage that Dropla recorded of Lowe confronting Maldonado-Passage about the alleged embezzlement — Lowe maintains that he "never set [out] to hurt Joe," and only had the best intentions. "We came here to actually save Joe… We came back and we bailed him out," he said. "We got the park back on its feet."
In the wake of Maldonado-Passage’s 2018 arrest, though, Lowe and Dropla decided to cut all ties with the self-proclaimed "Tiger King" and open a new location of the zoo in Thackerville, Oklahoma. "We think it’s best to let this zoo, die [sic] with Joe’s conviction and not make the next generation of animals to live here, forever suffer his outrageous behavior and reputation," Lowe wrote on Facebook at the time, according to Oklahoma’s News 4. The newly-named Oklahoma Zoo isn’t open yet, but it seems like Lowe might have to do even more to shake the association with Maldonado-Passage, thanks to the success of Tiger King.
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