Joe Exotic's Ex-Producer Rick Kirkham Says 'Tiger King' Was 'Wrong' For Making Viewers 'Feel Sorry for Joe'

Joe Exotic's straight-talking, cowboy-hat wearing former producer was a reporter for Inside Edition in the 1990s.

Many may know Rick Kirkham as Joe Exotic's straight-talking, cowboy hat-wearing former producer in the hit Netflix series "Tiger King," but back in the 1990s, he was a reporter at Inside Edition, well-known for his daring exploits.

Senior Correspondent Les Trent recently caught up with Kirkham about his newfound fame and exclusive footage he shot of Joe Exotic not seen on the series.

"It's insane. People roll down their window and yell, 'Hey, it's Tiger Rick,'" Kirkham told Trent.

He said one reaction to the docuseries that's taking him by surprise is that so many viewers actually feel sorry for Joe. 

"I think the doc portrayed that he had an evil heart," Kirkham said. "The part they got wrong was making the audience feel sorry for the man." 

Joe Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, is now serving 22 years for plotting to kill animal rights activist Carole Baskin. The Netflix series featured their intense feud about differing views on who should be able to keep, sell and breed big cats.

Kirkham said he was bewildered by any suggestion of a presidential pardon, which came up last week at a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic.

"First of all, that a reporter would ask if he would pardon him and then second, that the president would consider it, it is just ludicrous." 

On Joe Exotic's sentence, Kirkham said he was certain that Joe had intended to kill Carole Baskin.

He also discussed video not seen in the series, which he shot himself when producing the "Joe Exotic" reality show.

One clip shows Joe Exotic firing a gun inside the zoo's TV studio. Kirkham said he also witnessed an incident he will never forget. After a woman gave Joe Exotic an older horse to look after, Joe shot the horse in the head and the cut it up to feed the tigers, Kirkham said.