FORT WORTH, TEXAS — The Tiger King’s “Joe Exotic” fired away at his competition in the 2024 election and took shots at the current LGBTQ movement in an exclusive phone interview with The Florida Standard.
Speaking from the inside of a federal penitentiary, Joe Maldonado discussed his decision to run a presidential campaign from prison and what he hopes to accomplish with it. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Let’s start with the biggest story in the news right now. What are your thoughts on the rumors that Trump could be indicted and arrested?
I actually think it’s funny. It’s about time some of these bastards – excuse my language – start getting what the people get. He’s not immune to being prosecuted just like the rest of us in this country. Half the politicians that are in this country in office should be prosecuted.
I’m sure he has done a whole lot more than just use campaign funds to pay off a prostitute. It’s a bad habit amongst these politicians. They’re making back-door deals and they’re using taxpayer money for their own personal shit.
Sounds like you’re not a fan of Trump.
He played me for a year in the headlines. ‘Joe’s on the pardon list’ – for a damn year. Him and Don Jr. kept that shit going. If he would’ve pardoned me, he wouldn’t have had to call Georgia and ask for 11,000 votes, because he would’ve got ’em.
Do you think if he pardoned you, that would have changed the outcome of the election?
I know it would have. I have millions of supporters out there. It would be stupid for the Democrats not to pardon me before this is over. Actually, it would do them a miracle if Biden would just look at the evidence and see that I’m innocent. Not because I’m running for office. If Biden does that, the Democrats would have this wrapped up.
So, you’d support Biden in 2024 if he pardoned you?
If he would pardon me, I would withdraw my candidacy and support him, with changes. There has to be some changes. It can’t be all the Democrats' way.
If we want national abortions, we gotta give the Republicans their guns.
We’ve got to stop sending a billion dollars for gender identity to another country. If South Africa wants to keep breeding and know that they’re in famine and starving themselves to death, that’s their culture. That’s their problem, I’m sorry. If you want to donate, that's fine but taxes should not go to pay [for] their problems. Taxes should take care of our own.
It’s a shame in this country that we can always keep coming up with billions and billions of dollars to bail out other countries and help do everything else but we keep cutting grandma and grandpa’s Social Security.
How are you going to run for president as a prison inmate?
It’s going to be tough. I was already asked to take part in a debate in October. I’m going to do it from this phone. I’m going to do my best. I’ve got a really good team out there that’s working hard to make sure I get to speak and everything is on the up and up.
If you win, how would you take the office if you’re in prison?
I could pardon myself the day I win.
Have you confirmed that will work?
Yeah. Definitely. The minute I get sworn in, I can pardon myself. And I’m going to pardon every person that’s in federal prison on conspiracy charges that never got caught with drugs.
What motivated you to run for president and do you think you have a shot?
I think that we can get our country back on track. Look, if you want to get an abortion, get an abortion. If you want to carry a gun, carry a damn gun.
Am I ever going to win? Cold chance in hell, realistically. Am I going to screw up an election? You bet your ass. I already have a combined endorsement of 37 million supporters and I’ve only been at this a little over a week.
It’s time that somebody stands in the middle and listens to the people. It’s going to take somebody that’s been through the trenches – worked their ass off their whole life and had everything taken away – to understand how 60 percent of this country has to live.
How has your time in prison impacted you?
I’m in here watching people of all colors working for the federal government for 12 cents an hour, being treated like slaves and talked to like slaves. In order to sit here and watch television, there’s a black TV, there’s a Hispanic TV, there’s a white TV. And if you’re gay there’s no TV. I’m serious.
The whole system is run by the gangs, that way they don’t have to work. It’s the same way in D.C. That is the biggest gangster mob of people on the planet. All they do is take tax money, spend it stupidly and then they keep wanting to raise the debt ceiling to cover their bad investments.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to run for president in 2024. What do you think about him?
I think DeSantis is dangerous for America. You can’t run a country with this many different ethnicities and religions and everything else shoving your belief down someone’s throat. You just can’t. We got to have somebody in there that’s got an open mind.
That’s the problem with DeSantis. He’s a homophobe, he’s a Republican that wants to see everyone in jail and pay taxes. As bad of a job as Biden’s doing right now and as bad of a job as Trump did, I would vote for either one of them two before I vote for Ron DeSantis.
What’s your take on some of these controversial LGBTQ issues, like drag queens engaging with children in libraries and public parks?
Look, I’m 60 years old. I’ve been gay all my life and I fought for the LGBTQ community back in the 80’s when you couldn’t walk the street because of gay bashing. It was illegal to even walk down the street and hold hands. And we fought our asses off to get the respect to where we were at five, ten years ago.
The gay community is throwing us back 30 years. Drag queens are fun in bars, and nightclubs and on TV. They don’t belong in schools. They don’t belong in libraries. I’m sick of people ruining what we fought for because they want to shove it in everyone’s faces.
It’s on every commercial. It’s in almost every TV show. As tough a time as I had with my Dad, I have to respect the fact that my Dad doesn’t want to sit and watch Westerns on Sunday and then see two guys making out in a commercial.
I’ve only been to two gay parades in my entire life and I was ashamed. The way that they show up in thongs and everything else, for a parade? That’s not the way I want my sexuality to be portrayed in front of the American people.
What about the transgender movement?
As a business man, you are not going to tell me that I have to build a bathroom in every one of my businesses for transgenders. If you’re born with a penis, you’re going to piss in the boys’ bathroom. That’s just how it is.
Do you think it should be illegal for minors to get life-altering surgeries that remove healthy body parts such as a penis, breasts or uterus?
It should be. It absolutely should be. People didn’t face the fact of who I was before I was in my mid-twenties after five or six suicide attempts. My fiancé is only 25 years old and he just came out with me two years ago. Somebody that’s 12 [years old] needs to be playing with trucks and hot wheels. They don’t need to be thinking about cutting their penis off.
You and DeSantis can agree on that it seems.
That should be a national issue. That shouldn’t just be a Ron DeSantis issue. Do I support him on that issue? Absolutely. Do I support what he did to Disney? Not at all.
Disney took issue with the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill that prohibits discussions on gender identity and sexual orientation from kindergarten through third grade. What are your thoughts on that?
When I went to school, we had one really quick sex ed class and that was it. We didn’t have books in the library to read about sex, our teachers didn’t talk about sex. God knows they didn’t come and tell the students about their own personal sex life. It just doesn’t belong anywhere in school.
Did you see the report recently that said Carole Baskin’s husband is still alive?
Yeah, he ain’t alive. She didn’t think that through very well, because if he was alive she’d have to give all that money back.
If Carol cared about animals and she cared about my tigers – that zoo was world famous when that show came out – all she had to do was stop breeding at my facility and she could have made millions letting people come see my cats. That ain’t what this was about. This was about just shutting Joe down and getting rid of his zoo so she could stalk me the rest of my life.
Anything else you want the public to know?
I am not here for animal abuse. I did not get charged, I did not get convicted of animal abuse. I don’t know why the media likes this animal abuse bullshit, but I got charged with taking an endangered species without a permit because I euthanized five tigers. They’re claiming I should’ve filed for a permit, but I euthanized tigers for 23 damn years and I didn’t need a permit until it was time to put Joe in prison.