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'Exotic' presidential candidate running from prison tells Trump, 'Welcome to the party,' after indictment

Joe "Exotic," also known as "The Tiger King," spoke about his presidential bid and Trump's indictment in a new exclusive interview with Fox News Digital.

EXCLUSIVE: Joe "Exotic" Maldonado, who launched a 2024 presidential campaign from prison, wishes former President Trump would have "his arraignment in an orange jumpsuit and shackles" after his indictment Thursday.

"Former President Donald Trump now that you have been indicted, welcome to the party," Maldonado wrote on his Instagram. "Trump should have to go to arraignment in an orange jumpsuit and shackles and be humiliated just like the rest (of) us have been, innocent or not."

Maldonado, who is running as a member of the Libertarian Party, was locked up in 2018 after being found guilty of murder-for-hire charges and is fighting to prove his innocence while running in the 2024 presidential race

In a statement to Fox News Digital, the star of Netflix's "Tiger King" said though he respects the former president, Trump "spent 4 years doing nothing to clean up the Justice System, The Prison System or the FBI. So welcome to the party pal…"


Trump was indicted Thursday by a New York grand jury after years-long investigations into his alleged role in hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDougal during his presidential campaign.

"I wish he would have to get his arraignment in an orange jumpsuit and shackles just like everyone else that is made to look guilty right off the bat," Maldonado told Fox Digital in a statement.

Insisting he is innocent after being convicted of trying to hire hitmen to kill an animal rights advocate, Maldonado said he is committed to exonerating himself and plans to help "others stuck in this slow system and want to unite this country instead of tearing it apart."

Considering Trump and President Biden are under investigation for improperly storing classified documents, "what the hell's wrong with a guy running from prison?" Maldonado told Fox News Digital in an exclusive interview earlier this week. 

The "Tiger King" star took aim at Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who trails Trump in early 2024 polls but has not yet announced a presidential run.

"Ron DeSantis is dangerous for this country. He's prudent with Disney, he's proved it with the other lawsuits he introduced in Florida. If you don't like his way, he's going to make a law and make it illegal for you. Very dangerous man."

Exotic also said that when it comes to Trump, "he's workable if sometimes he would just keep his mouth shut because he blows so much smoke. I don't believe that the election was stolen, at all. I think people lost it. And if he would have passed the torch and went away a grown man instead of throwing a fit, he probably would be re-elected again.


"President Biden, he needs to just wake up, him and Vice President Harris, how they want to do justice and prison reform in this country, and he's done nothing. … We have President Putin who is wanted. President Trump is about to be indicted. Hunter Biden and President Biden are under investigation. What the hell is wrong with a guy running from prison?"

The U.S. Constitution only states three requirements for running for president, none of which specifically prevent a candidate from running for the office while in prison.

In 2020, Maldonado was sentenced to 22 years in prison for 17 counts of animal abuse and two counts related to charges that he hired someone to kill activist Carole Baskin. Despite his conviction, the Tiger lover has maintained his innocence.

"I've never abused an animal in my life. I'm not in here for animal abuse. I'm in here for taking an endangered species without a permit," he said.

Maldonado said his conviction is an example of why the country is "so corrupt."

"I ran for office in 2016 and 2018. So this isn't just a publicity stunt. Somebody has to give working-class people in this country a voice. And now that I see it from the inside of how corrupt this system is, I can be that voice," the reality star said.

Maldonado said if he wins, he will pardon himself and every other inmate convicted on similar charges because he "truly believe there's probably close to 30,000 people that are nonviolent offenders that need to go home and go back to their families."

Exotic also responded to Angela McArdle, head of the Libertarian Party, after she told TMZ his presidential bid was "just tigers and glitter."


"I have a ton of Libertarian supporters who agree with me. … We're never going to get everybody to agree to anything because you can't be a Republican, you can't be a Democrat, you can't be a libertarian and run a country with 330 million different kinds of people. We're going to have to stand in the middle, and we're going to have to say, 'You can do this, and you can do this, but let's just not hurt nobody."

"The Tiger King" said voters should consider him for president "if you agree that we need a change."

"And if you don't, then keep voting for the other people," he said. "They keep this country in turmoil."

When asked what qualities he believes make him stand out among the other candidates, Maldonado said he is "not ashamed of who I am, and I'm not ashamed of anything that I've done in my past. And I'm not ashamed of any mistakes I'm going to make in the future. And I'm going to tell you like it is whether you want to hear the truth or not. I'm not going to sugarcoat anything, and I'm going to stick up for everyone.

"It's time that the people in this country wake up. You know, we can't shove our religious beliefs that I have down 300 million people's throats. We have people from all over the world live here, and we all have to get along."

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