On Tuesday, August 18, President Donald Trump pardoned suffragette Susan B. Anthony—she died in 1906. In 1897, Anthony was arrested for voting before the 19th amendment, passed in 1920, made it legal for women to do so, and Trump thought it was about time someone absolved the now feminist icon of her sins.
Many didn’t approve of Trump’s seemingly righteous gesture. For starters, the Susan B. Anthony Museum rejected the pardon, explaining that Anthony understood her trial, during which the judge dismissed the jury and declared her guilty, to be unjust, and refused to pay any penalties because it would validate the trial. “To pardon Susan B. Anthony does the same,” wrote Deborah Hughes, president & CEO of the National Susan B. Anthony Museum in a statement.
Others—aka people on Twitter—were bummed that Trump hadn’t pardoned infamous exotic big cat owner Joe Exotic.
Who is Joe Exotic, you ask?
The answer takes us back to the beginning of the pandemic shutdowns in March when Netflix aired Tiger King. The eight-episode documentary series follows big cat owner Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage, known mainly by his stage name Joe Exotic, and explores how he ended up with a 22-year prison sentence for murder for hire, falsifying wildlife records, killing five tigers and selling tigers across state lines. A wild rollercoaster ride of documentary television, the series involves exotic animals, private zoos, polygamy, political campaigns, a missing person, accidental death and attempted murder. In the end, each player has their own story and Joe Exotic maintains his innocence.
Tiger King had nearly 34 million unique viewers during the first ten days of its release, and Exotic’s fan club grew fast and large. It’s hard to separate the genuine believers from those in it for the memes, but when, on August 17, news got out that Trump would be pardoning someone “very, very important,” many people immediately thought of Joe Exotic.
My 1st thought was ‘The Tiger King’ aka Joe Exotic 🤷♂️🐯😂
— JJ Ryan (@JJRyanOnAir) August 18, 2020
Joe Exotic! Free the Tiger King 🐯
— Stevie Robinson (@stevie_robinson) August 18, 2020
— 🇺🇸Matt 👑—Do I look Rattled?🇺🇸 (@NewMedia_Matt3) August 18, 2020
Joe Exotic quickly began trending on Twitter, and talk of his potential pardon toggled the line between tittle-tattle and rumor.
I really don’t like how it’s 7AM and there’s no way to be 100% sure that the President isn’t pardoning Joe Exotic from Tiger King
— ThatsControversial.com (The Website) (@muchcontroversy) August 18, 2020
Either way, the speculation didn’t appear out of thin air. Back in April, New York Post reporter Steven Nelson asked Trump if he’s thought about pardoning Exotic. Trump said he didn’t know anything about Tiger King or Exotic, but he also didn’t give a straight yes or no answer.
President Trump: “Would you recommend a pardon?”
Jim @Acosta: “I’m not weighing in on Tiger King.”
— CSPAN (@cspan) April 8, 2020
And Exotic himself has asked Trump to pardon him for what he sees as a wrongful conviction. And the Twitter account @joe_exotic, which claims to be Exotic’s official account but is not verified by Twitter, encourages followers to reach out to Trump to encourage him to sign a pardon for Exotic.
— Joe Exotic (@joe_exotic) August 18, 2020
The Joe Exotic talk brought back memories of March and made some realize how long—or how short, depending on how the pandemic is going for you—it’s been since Tiger King aired.
Joe Exotic is trending. Remember when Tiger King was all the rage three years ago?
Wait, was that just this last April?
— Kara Calavera (@KaraCalavera) August 18, 2020
When Joe Exotic is trending and it seems like Tiger King was way longer ago than it actually was pic.twitter.com/3CGA09mGWU
— Mermaid-American ✌🏼🇺🇸 (@TheMermaidAg) August 18, 2020
Exotic’s trend also served as a wakeup call for how absurdly bizarre most of 2020 has been.
— Chris (@NewEnglandChris) August 18, 2020
And around all this hype about Exotic’s now known to be non-existent pardon, came the news that a second season of Tiger King is in the works.
Joe Exotic is back! 🐅 https://t.co/cdBG5wqnm8
— British GLAMOUR (@GlamourMagUK) August 18, 2020
So we don’t forget that Exotic is a convicted criminal with evidence against him of animal trafficking and abuse, PETA and other animal rights groups chimed in to remind us.
— PETA (@peta) August 18, 2020