Is there a monthly book club for toxic masculinity that we don’t know about? That’s the only way this next sentence makes any sense: Viral misogynist, podcast host, and streamer Andrew Tate (and his less famous brother Tristan Tate) say they’re covering all legal fees for currently incarcerated Joe Exotic, star of the pandemic hit Netflix documentary, Tiger King. According to a press release from the Tates’ publicist, the brothers reached out to Exotic after fans began calling for his release and “struck up a friendship” with him that includes covering all the bills relating to his case. But Exotic’s lawyer John Phillips told Rolling Stone that Tate has only sent $10,000 dollars to his GoFundMe, and did not comment on whether a plan to transfer more money was in place.
“Joe Exotic blew the whole world away with his kind character, loveable personality, and dedication to his animals. We went ‘Joe crazy’ but everybody forgot that at the end of ‘Tiger King’ he was behind bars. The men who conspired to frame him walk free and reap the rewards of his hard work,” The Tates said in the statement. “This injustice is unacceptable. We will continue to support and assist our friend, Joe in every way we can until we finally meet face to face when he’s a free man.”
Tate’s claim that he is paying Exotic’s legal fees has been marketed by his team as philanthropy and placed on the same level as private donations to orphanages and animal shelters. This kind of move is on brand for Tate, who has used his “philanthropic efforts” as a common defense, previously claiming that he couldn’t possibly be a misogynist because his brand is only focused on charity and empowering people. “The media is spinning a false image of me, on repeat, and Instagram bowing to pressure is a massive shame,” he previously told Rolling Stone in response to bans from Facebook, Youtube and Instagram. “Somehow I am the villain, when all of my posts were bible verses and charitable donations.”
While a friendship between an incarcerated former exotic zoo owner and a misogynistic social media star banned from Facebook and Instagram might seem unlikely, both Tate and Exotic express similar belief patterns that might make this partnership more believable. Exotic (real name Joseph Maldonado-Passage) first rose to infamy during the 2020 release of the Tiger King documentary, which documented his life in the private exotic zoo world rearing and selling endangered big cats like lions and tigers. But what turned the story into mayhem was Exotic’s rivalry with Carole Baskin, an advocate for the closing of all private big cat zoos. After several fiery interactions, Exotic was charged with hiring a contract killer to shut Baskin up permanently— a failed attempt that got him sentenced to 22 years in prison.
Someone else who seems to be allergic to being quiet, Tate is well known for his viral podcast clips and rose to fame for his toxic take on all things dating, lifestyle, and politics. In 2016, Tate was removed from the U.K version of Big Brother after video clips of him beating a woman with a belt resurfaced online —which Tate claimed was a consensual encounter. Before he was also kicked off of Facebook, Youtube, TikTok, and Instagram for violating their content policies, Tate had 4.6 million followers on Instagram and over 740,000 followers on YouTube, with ripped clips from his podcast appearances often going viral on other accounts. Tate, who once implied younger women are hotter because “they’ve been through less dick” and said women should bear some responsibility for being raped, has staunchly denied that his work empowers hate. He also runs Hustlers University, an online scheme devoted to helping men make money through a variety of side hustles, including copywriting and investments in cryptocurrency. The brand allows people who buy in to make money off of referrals, creating a business model shaped suspiciously like a pyramid, but Tate has denied that the program is a multi-level marketing scheme.
Tate’s offer to pay Exotic’s legal fees hasn’t exactly been strings-free, either. Earlier this year, Tate said on his podcast that he was willing to make a direct $2 million donation to free Exotic from prison, but only if Exotic’s lawyer could provide him with a plan of action.
“I need to know exactly how this money is gonna be spent. I don’t want all of it to get eaten up in legal fees,” Tate said in a podcast episode earlier this year. “So he’s putting together a plan now to show how the money will get him out. I will pay $2 million to free Tiger King, but I will not pay $2 million for his lawyer to keep and leave Tiger King in Jail.”
In the meantime, Exotic seems happy to have some more eyes on his case. In the past month, the former big cat owner has posted several shirtless Instagram photos of Tate, a move that feels increasingly weird considering Tiger King documented Exotic’s love of ripped, often younger than him, straight men. Exotic continues to thank Tate for his support, soft launching all the things they could do together if Exotic is ever freed. ” Hey Andrew,” one post reads. “Would you be interested in running on a ticket with me in 2024?” Because that’s just what we need.