Not even federal prison could stop Netflix star Joe Exotic from tossing his hat into the 2024 White House race. He announced Wednesday that he is entering as a Libertarian, despite currently serving a 21-year prison sentence. His sentencing follows a conviction in 2019 on multiple charges, including two counts of hiring a hitman to murder wildlife activist Carole Baskin. He was also convicted of killing tigers and selling them across state lines. On his campaign website, Exotic addressed his prison sentence. “Yes, I know I am in Federal Prison, and you might think this is a joke, but it’s not. It is my Constitutional right to do this even from here,” he wrote.
By Darragh Roche; March 16, 2023
Tiger King” Joe Exotic announced on Wednesday that he is entering the 2024 race for the White House as a Libertarian despite currently serving a prison sentence.
Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Allen Maldonado, shot to fame as the star of the Netflix docuseries Tiger King and made his campaign announcement on social media.
He joins a growing field of presidential hopefuls as former President Donald Trump continues to lead among likely Republican primary voters in most recent polls and President Joe Biden has yet to formally announce another campaign.
Exotic is serving a 21-year prison sentence following conviction in 2019 on multiple charges, including two counts of hiring hitmen to murder wildlife activist Carole Baskin. He was also convicted of killing tigers and selling them across state lines.
“It’s official! I am now a candidate for President of the United States in 2024,” Exotic wrote, sharing an image showing his official campaign filing and a link to his website.
When one Twitter user asked him why he’s running when it’s unlikely he’ll win, Exotic replied: “It’s not about winning or losing, it’s about making changes.”
On his website, Exotic addressed his prison sentence, writing: “Yes, I know I am in Federal Prison and you might think this is a joke but it’s not. It is my Constitutional right to do this even from here.”
There is no legal barrier to a person running for president from prison. During the 1920 presidential election, Socialist Eugene V. Debs famously ran while imprisoned and won more than 900,000 votes but no Electoral College votes.
While he took aim at the U.S. Department of Justice over his conviction in his presidential announcement, Exotic also outlined his message to American voters.
“I am here because I have a world platform to make these politicians listen to your and my concerns and give us some answers for once because all they do is lie to all of us, take our hard earned money calling it taxes, and give it away to foreign countries without them giving us anything back,” the announcement said.
Exotic’s announcement was met with surprise and some mockery on social media. This will be the second time he’s mounted a presidential bid after running unsuccessfully in 2016.
“Anyone have Joe Exotic running for President from prison on their 2023 bingo card?” tweeted DJ Mike Allan.
“We have another Joe on the ballot for President,” tweeted writer Matt Rexroad. “Joe Biden and Joe Exotic. We live in exciting times.”
Music journalist Deanna Rilling tweeted: “We’ve reached the point in this timeline where Joe Exotic would be a better president than TFG or DeSantis by a longshot…”
That was a reference to former President Trump and Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, who has not formally announced his intention to seek the 2024 GOP nomination.
Newsweek has reached out to Joe Exotic for comment via his campaign website.