'Tiger King' Jeff Lowe Denies Claims He 'Set Up' Joe Exotic (Exclusive)
By Paige Gawley
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Jeff Lowe is speaking out following the release of Tiger King. In an interview with ET's Lauren Zima via video chat, Lowe and his wife, Lauren Dropla, discussed their portrayal throughout the Netflix docuseries, in which they're seen taking over Joe Exotic's zoo, prior to his arrest and conviction.
In the show, the couple's role in Exotic's eventual downfall is questioned, but Lowe insisted, "We did not do anything. We did not rat on Joe. We did not snitch on Joe."
"It's sad that people think that we set him up, but what we did was we protected ourselves," Lowe said. "Lauren and I didn't do anything wrong, so I'm not about to take the fall for Joe's crimes."
"When the feds started investigating Joe and we were tipped off by the confidential informant... we knew that we had no choice. We had to tell them what we knew," he continued. "We handed them over our cell phones, our bank accounts, whatever they asked for we gave them, cooperated fully."
That cooperation began after Lowe and Dropla moved to Las Vegas because they "couldn't deal with" with Exotic anymore. When they discovered that Exotic was changing passwords on their bank accounts, though, they returned to the zoo.
"We came in, we snuck back into town, went to the bank to get our bank statements, and the teller said, 'You know, I am probably not supposed to tell you this, but the feds are watching your bank account,'" he said. "So we knew at the time that they had been monitoring the bank account, looking for money coming in from Joe selling tiger cubs."
"We did not say anything, we just went over those bank statements and that's when we found out that Joe was embezzling [and] forging my name 50 times on $50,000 worth of checks," Lowe added.
Viewers saw Lowe confront Exotic on the series, in a video that was taken by Dropla.
"We were already planning to confront Joe that day... As soon as I opened the door, Joe came busting in and he actually pushed me up against the wall with the door and it just went off from there," she explained. "So I just automatically started recording. I said, 'We need to cover our a**.'"
Lowe added that his wife "records everything" and that the portion of the argument seen on Netflix is "just a tiny, tiny clip of that entire situation," which was actually hours long.
"That is I think effectively what saved us from the scrutiny of the federal investigators. Because, initially, I would have been a suspect in cub trafficking because my name was on the park and Joe was breeding all these cats here and selling them," Lowe said. "We were in Las Vegas. We knew he was selling tiger cubs, everybody in the industry knew... but I couldn't say anything. He was breeding his own tigers. They weren't mine. It was none of my business."
Despite the intense argument and all the problems that followed, Lowe said that he and Dropla "never set [out] to hurt Joe."
"We came here to actually save Joe... We came back and we bailed him out. We got the park back on its feet," he said. "... It's a very small family, the exotic animal industry."
"You see all these beautiful animals, knowing that someone like Carole Baskin was going to possibly get all of them," Lowe added of Exotic's fiercest foe. "I didn't want that to happen... We did not want her getting a hold of these tigers because she would have either made money or figured out a way to put them down."
Overall, Lowe said that he and Dropla "absolutely" feel that they were exploited by the series and that they were "not at all" portrayed accurately.
"It's aggravating because we lived it. We know where the mistakes were. You wanna get up and hit the TV," he said. "... They misled all of us... They just twisted around on us. They tried to make us look like we were complicit."