In the popular Netflix documentary "Tiger King," Joe Exotic is shown to make an impact--whether it’s good or bad--in most places he visits. This was the case when he visited Oklahoma State University two years ago.
On April 26, 2018, candidates in the Oklahoma gubernatorial election met at OSU's Student Union Theater to discuss issues impacting the state. Many top candidates were there, including current Gov. Kevin Stitt, runner-up Drew Edmondson and former Oklahoma City mayor Mick Cornett, but the first one who spoke that night was the flamboyant, mullet-sporting cowboy, Exotic.
“We’ll start left to right, starting with Joe Maldonado, and then we’ll rotate that as we go,” said OSU alumnus David Stewart, who introduced the candidates at the event.
Joe’s response set the tone for the rest of his comments that night.
“Hey ladies and gentlemen, thanks for having us here on the ballot," he said. "My name’s actually Joe Exotic.”
In a room full of suits, politicians and political correctness, Exotic wasn’t going to conform. He was proud to go by his nickname and, as he stated in the documentary, he “refuses to wear a suit.” He was on stage in a lively brown jacket, jeans and his signature Seth Wadley Auto Group Hat.
“You know, I’m a little bit different than everybody else, so I’m not in a suit, I ain’t gonna take my earrings out and I ain’t gonna cut my hair or anything else because I’m not gonna be fake,” Exotic said. “I come from out in the rural area. I know what’s wrong. I live in the real world. I know how to fix it."
The casual way he dressed coincided with his policies, too. One of his main stances was wanting the common people and small business owners to be able to compete with big corporations.
“Oklahoma has been open for business for quite some time for a special select group of people: the windmill farms, the oil companies, big businesses, in order to give them tax breaks to come into Oklahoma and open up their businesses,” he said. “But the problem with that is, when the oil goes boom, everybody’s unemployed, and they go back to wherever they come from until the oil picks back up. Meanwhile, the businesses that struggle in this state, which is the mom and pop businesses like yours and mine, continue to pay the highest tax rates, and we work the hardest in order to keep this state functioning by hiring people and keeping the taxes going so we can pay the bills.
“So what we need to do if we’re gonna open business in Oklahoma is we need to make it fair for everybody. I think we should have a flat tax rate for everybody to pay so everybody can compete on the same field. It doesn’t matter if you have four employees or if you got 2,000 employees”
A majority of Exotic’s policies focused on small business owners and people in rural areas. When discussing education at this forum, Exotic said the government should focus more on people who don’t have an interest in attending a university.
“I’m all for higher education, you have your beautiful school here,” Exotic said of OSU. “But we're forgetting a very big part of Oklahoma out there and that’s rural Oklahoma. Not everything out in rural Oklahoma is fit for the kids to come [to college]. We’ve got to get more trade schools going on, we got to get more things set up in the schools for the people that are in the areas where they live and the interests they have in. Not everybody is for college.”
Whether it’s way of life or policies, Exotic seems all about appealing to common people. This was evident when he announced that he was coming to speak at the school.
Hours before the meeting started, Exotic took to Twitter to send a message to OSU students: he was coming with tiger-print yard signs and campaign rolling papers-- a thin paper that can be used with tobacco or marijuana products.
OSU People I will be in Stillwater Tonight from 5.30 to 7.30 at the OSU Student Union Theater 203 for a form. Come get your yard signs and rolling papers and listen to the form and lets #fixthisshit— Joe Exotic (@joe_exotic) April 26, 2018
The message was out there, and the people listened. Exotic was seen posing for pictures with students after the event in front of a stretch limousine with his name on it. He even tweeted a picture after the forum and stated his love for OSU’s students.
“OSU gang, I love you,” Exotic said.
OSU gang I love you pic.twitter.com/ZDgfaQ0F96— Joe Exotic (@joe_exotic) April 27, 2018