‘DWTS’: Will ‘Tiger King’ Star Carole Baskin’s Legal Woes Impact Her Participation?
Dancing with the Stars returns to ABC in less than two weeks. The reality dance competition made a few changes for season 29, including its new host Tyra Banks. Ahead of Good Morning America’s full cast announcement, rumors swirled that Tiger King star Carol Baskin would take the stage. Now it’s final — she’s in. Will her legal issues will have an impact on participating in the show?
The ‘Dancing with the Stars’ cast for season 29 is wild
Season 29 of DWTS didn’t disappoint with its multi-faceted cast lineup. The news came via Good Morning America on Wednesday, Sept. 2. Some contestants — like former Bachelorette, Kaitlyn Bristowe — were already confirmed.
Aside from Baskin, the contenders are a diverse mix with varied backgrounds, per the usual DWTS standard. The cast includes professional athletes: NBA legend Charles Oakley, Olympic skater Johnny Weir, Super Bowl Champion Vernon Davis, and Cheer‘s Monica Aldam.
Joining them are TV and film stars: Selling Sunset’s Chrishell Stause, One Day at a Time‘s Justina Machado, Disney Channel actress Skai Jackson, Holey Moley correspondent Jeannie Mai, Catfish’s Nev Schulman, and actress Anne Heche.
To represent the music industry: Backstreet Boys singer, AJ McLean will go up against rapper Nelly for the mirror ball.
DWTS pro dancers for season 29 include Brandon Armstrong, Alan Bersten, Sharna Burgess, Cheryl Burke, Artem Chigvintsev, Val Chmerkovskiy, Sasha Farber, Jenna Johnson, Daniella Karagach, Keo Motsepe, Peta Murgatroyd, Pasha Pashkov, Gleb Savchenko, Emma Slater, and Britt Stewart.
Though each contestant had their time in the spotlight, Baskin’s moment has been controversial.
Don Lewis’s family filed a lawsuit against ‘Tiger King’ star Carole Baskin
On Aug. 12, Baskin was sued for information on her missing husband, Don Lewis. He was declared dead in 2002 but his family wants answers.
“Carole Baskin was served with our lawsuit by Tampa Process LLC. We asked for proof of service and they sent us these photos,” Jacksonville, Florida attorney John M. Phillips (who is representing the Lewis family) tweeted. “Once again, we invite Ms. Baskin to sit down and discuss the death and disappearance of Don Lewis.”
Lewis’s three daughters and Anne McQueen, former executive assistant to Lewis, filed the lawsuit. Phillips filed a “pure bill of discovery” in an attempt to obtain Baskin’s information “on-the-record.” This includes the confiscation of “electronic device data, diaries, and investigative material related to Lewis,” according to WTSP in Tampa.
The family held a press conference to reveal a $100,000 reward for information on the case.
“We are hoping that with these funds, someone will have the courage to come for it and provide the information necessary to solve this case,” said Lewis’s daughter Donna Pettis.
The Lewis case found new relevance through ‘Tiger King’
Tiger King put the Lewis cold case back on the radar. The seven-part docuseries featured the longtime feud between Big Cat Rescue owner, Baskin, and zookeeper Joseph Maldonado-Passage (aka Joe Exotic). Maldonado-Passage alleged Baskin’s involvement in Lewis’s disappearance, bringing new attention to the case.
Maldonado-Passage was found guilty of a murder-for-hire plot against Baskin and is serving a 22-year sentence. Meanwhile, Baskin inherited much of Lewis’s $6 million estate. She later won a lawsuit against Maldonado-Passage for copyright infringement.
Baskin vehemently denies any involvement in the Lewis case.
“It’s been my policy not to discuss pending litigation until it’s been resolved,” Baskin told Associated Press via email. “I had told some news outlets that I thought the press conference on August 10 was just a publicity stunt, but at that time was not aware there would be pending litigation.”
Phillips specializes in wrongful death constitutional and civil rights. He is conducting his own investigation following Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister’s initial re-opening of the case in March.
Here’s how Baskin’s legal woes may affect her place in the competition
Rehearsals for DWTS have begun with a premiere date of Sept. 14. That means the Tiger King star will don her best cat print sand flower crowns for a chance at winning the mirror ball trophy.
On Aug. 30, Phillips received a “motion to dismiss” from Baskin’s attorney.
“We will get this set for hearing. We knew this would be an issue given how infrequently a Pure Bill of Discovery is filed. If we do not prevail, we will file a lengthy lawsuit for damages,” he wrote on the Phillips & Hunt website.
“This may be inevitable, given the ongoing defamation. However, the point of a Pure Bill is to simplify the issues and get to the bottom of the issues. Unfortunately, this pit seems bottomless.”
That said, it’s unclear if, or how, DWTS may be affected in the event Baskin’s presence is required in court hearings. As Phillips stated, a “lengthy lawsuit for damages” could take time away from rehearsals or live-event shows.