by Allison Crist | Fri., Apr. 10, 2020 5:01 PM
The story around Joe Exotic just keeps getting crazier!
In an exclusive interview with Daily Pop's Justin Sylvester, Rick Kirkham—the veteran journalist and producer who worked on Joe's reality show and was recently featured in Netflix's Tiger King—claimed that the docuseries "is extremely accurate, but it didn't go near as far as what it could've gone."
"There was a whole lot more to talk about; a whole lot more that could've been shown about Joe Exotic and just how wild and crazy and evil-hearted the man really was," Kirkham said, adding that a more accurate depiction would take the documentary, "multiply it [and] put it on steroids."
As Kirkham explains in Tiger King, much of what he describes was initially all caught on his own cameras. That footage, however, fell victim to a random fire on Joe's property—one that Kirkham believes Joe, who's legal name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, set himself.
"Joe wanted us to run the cameras 24 hours a day, and we did," Kirkham told Sylvester. "We shot thousands of hours of things, and everything from him killing animals to abusing people, abusing animals—he knew it was all on tape. And he wanted it recorded. But he never wanted all of it released."
Investigators never determined who started the fire, and Maldonado-Passage denied any involvement.
As for the alleged animal abuse, Kirkham said Joe Exotic would not only kill his older tigers and then "feed them right to the other tigers," but Kirkham said he once watched him kill a horse a woman had brought him because he claimed he would take care of it and let it use his big pasture.
The story, according to Kirkham, goes like this: "Before she got off the park—he said, 'Rick, roll your camera. Roll your camera. Come on, you're gonna love this Rick,'—he walked up, pulled a gun out of his holster and shot the horse dead in the trailer and then cut it up with a chainsaw and then fed it to the tigers that day."
PEOPLE recently reported on Kirkham's story about the horse, noting that Maldonado-Passage has not faced any criminal charges for the alleged horse shooting. His attorney did not respond to PEOPLE's request for comment. Maldonado-Passage was, however, convicted in federal court of two counts of murder for hire—though the hit against Carole Baskin did not go through—along with a number of charges around the animals he kept, including nine counts of violating the Endangered Species Act. Maldonado-Passage is currently serving a 22-year sentence in prison, but continues to maintain his innocence as to all charges and allegations of any kind of abuse.
The horse story was apparently just one of "a hundred" crazy things Kirkham allegedly witnessed. He told Sylvester that he even feared for his life because of Joe's alleged recklessness. Oftentimes, Kirkham claimed, he would sneak up behind people and shoot at them or the ground "just to scare the s--t" out of them."
"He'd pull out a gun and shoot right through the walls of the studio. I mean, he was just that crazy," Kirkham said.
So when the fire happened, Kirkham said that was the final straw for him. He originally made a deal with Joe that he would produce videos for his YouTube channel if Kirkham could film Joe for his own reality show, but now all of that footage—a whole year's worth—was gone.
Kirkham said once his "million-dollar reality show" was destroyed, he had "a nervous breakdown" and left Oklahoma.
"There were a lot of strange things that went on in there," Kirkham, who now lives in Norway, told Sylvester. "It really was a rough time in my life. I had to go get psychiatric help after working in that zoo. And to this day, now that it's come back with the docuseries, I'm seeing a therapist again."
He explained that because of these strange things he allegedly witnessed while working with Joe, he can't even be mad that Netflix made a project like the one he initially wanted to make.
"I'm not pissed at all. If anything, I'm grateful because, to be quite honest with you, about four months after I was there, I started realizing what was going on and seeing things that I knew were wrong," Kirkham said. "I started kind of selling out my own journalistic integrity by not stopping it. And I felt guilty. So when the zoo fire happened, I had all that guilt on top of me from what I had seen."
He continued, "...It wasn't losing the project that knocked me down, it was the fact that I had let myself go that far...So karma came back around for both Joe and I. The karma comes around in that I didn't get to make my show. I lost everything I had. Karma came around for him in that he's now sitting in jail as the most famous man on the planet."
Fame, according to Kirkham, was always the end-goal for Joe.
"That's the real irony here, is the fact that Joe Exotic, all he ever wanted in his life was to be famous; the most famous man in the world," Kirkham told Sylvester. "Today he is, and he's sitting behind bars."
He added, "I bet he is scratching down the walls of his jail cell, knowing that he has now gotten all of the fame he wanted and he can't do a damn thing with it."
Kirkham plans to reveal even more about Joe Exotic and Tiger King in a livestream tomorrow, Saturday, April 11, at 2 p.m. ET. Viewers can submit questions for Kirkham by posting a video on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #AskTigerRick.
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