The Lion, The Dentist and The Truth

The Lion, The Dentist and The Truth

Protests against Palmer took place days after the hunt, but months before the legal process was worked out. Photo via Star Tribune.

His life was threatened, his business ruined and his personal property destroyed. People for The Ethical Treatment of Animals even suggested he be hanged. In the end, though, Minnesota dentist Dr. Walter Palmer was vindicated. After a lengthy review process by Zimbabwe Environmental MinisterĀ Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, Palmer was cleared of all pending charges after he shot a lion on a guided hunt.

Soon after the story broke, Muchinguri-Kashiri said Zimbabwean authorities would seek Palmer's extradition so he could be tried. However, it was never clear what crimes he was charged with. Lions are legal game in Zimbabwe. As it turned out, Palmer had all the necessary permits and followed all the laws he was required to.

That didn't seem to matter to the tens of thousands who posted threats and hateful comments on social media outlets. Not surprisingly, most of the hatred directed at Palmer came mere days after his successful hunt and months before the case worked its way through the legal system. No one, except for Palmer and his guides, knew the entire story.


Even the media jumped on the bandwagon. Thousands of stories circulated across the Internet and in newspapers and magazines throughout the world. Many of them were littered with innuendo, false claims and sketchy facts.


That's not surprising, says US Sportsmen's Alliance executive director Nick Pinizzotto. The biggest stories are always the most sensational and reporters often rely on hearsay without verifying any facts. Who can't resist reading about a "rich" American doctor who pays $50,000 to "illegally" shoot a famous, beloved lion?

"I was on CBS This Morning live when I was asked if they (Palmer and outfitter Theo Bronkhorst) dragged bait through the park to get the lion to follow it out of the park," says Pinizzotto. "Nobody knew at that point."

All sources of media were attacking Palmer following the hunt. Photo via Hartford Journal.

Now that we know more facts and Palmer has been cleared, will any members of the media apologize?


"Don't hold your breath," says Pinozzotto. "That's not how our media works. Once there's no controversy, there's no story. They simply move on to the next big story."

Although a number of them have covered Palmer's exoneration, most stories were brief and were little more than a side note to the original story. Few, if any, offered corrections, while some continued to suggest that Palmer was guilty for committing the alleged sin of killing a legal game animal. One story included the following lead sentence: "Walter Palmer has officially gotten away with it."

The major media outlets may have moved on and Palmer has reportedly returned to work, but the hate continues from anti-hunters. A number of Facebook pages directed at Palmer are still active. One, titled "Shame Lion Killer Walter Palmer and River Bluff Dental," has nearly 33,000 "likes." A comment posted on November 17 read, "Hey palmer... are u planning for your Thanksgiving feast? well enjoy it while you can... we are still here waiting for you."


Another is titled "Walter Palmer the Lion Killer" and yet another is "Walter Palmer: The Cowardly Dentist Who Killed Cecil The Lion." They might be funny if they weren't filled with veiled threats and vile comments that continue even after Palmer was cleared.

Pinizzotto doesn't expect the threats to stop. Nor does he expect any apologies from those who posted hateful comments and lies directed at Palmer.

"They don't care if a hunt was legal. That's irrelevant to them. They simply hate the idea of hunting or anyone killing animals for any reason," he adds. "Dr. Palmer is a convenient and high-profile target of their hatred."

While the rhetoric directed at Palmer may subside over time, Pinizzotto says anti-hunting organizations that capitalized on the dead lion are using their new-found fame to push for other issues. One anti-Palmer Facebook page has shifted from threatening Palmer to pushing for the ouster of US Fish and Wildlife Service director Dan Ashe. He happens to be a hunter.

That's not surprising. It's not the only disturbing piece of this, either.

Palmer has done other hunts in Africa, like this one in 2008, but never experienced backlash until he harvested Cecil. Photo via Trophy Hunt America.

Many in the hunting community also turned their back on Palmer long before the facts came to light. Safari Club International suspended Palmer's membership in July, citing an ongoing investigation into the matter. SCI released a statement soon after, saying, "those who intentionally take wildlife illegally should be prosecuted and punished to the maximum extent allowed by law." The investigation had yet to be completed.

Although Palmer was cleared in October, SCI has not publicly reinstated his membership or made any statements regarding the dentist since they suspended his membership. Representatives of the conservation group did not return phone calls requesting comment.

One high-profile member of the conservation community who wished to remain anonymous derided SCI's decision to drop Palmer before all the facts were gathered.

"They did the exact same thing anti-hunters and the media did. They were judge, jury and executioner before we knew all the facts," he said. "That sends a pretty stark message to others who may be in the same boat in the future. Don't expect support, even if you are innocent."

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Is That a Grizzly Bear?

Is That a Grizzly Bear?

Kevin Steele and Jason Morton are above the Arctic Circle pursuing grizzly bears in Alaska and put a stalk on what they believe is a good one.

B&C Typical Mule Deer

B&C Typical Mule Deer

Doug Burris Jr's typical mule deer taken in 1969, could just be one record that will never be broken.

Camp Chef at SHOT Show: Elk Venison Slider Burgers Recipe

Camp Chef at SHOT Show: Elk Venison Slider Burgers Recipe

Have a freezer full of ground elk venison from your fall hunting trips? Never fear, the folks at Camp Chef have a great SHOT Show recipe that is lean and mean, easy to prepare, and a crowd-pleasing favorite!

.500 S&W vs. the King of the Beasts

.500 S&W vs. the King of the Beasts

Smith & Wesson's Tony Miele and host Kevin Steele track an African lion across the Kalahari for the ultimate handgun showdown with the King of the Beasts.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Learn how to grill the perfect medium-rare venison steak with these tips and tricks. Recipes

Venison Grilling Tips

Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley

Learn how to grill the perfect medium-rare venison steak with these tips and tricks.

A new wave of allergies threatens to turn hunters into vegetarians. News

The Ticks Making Hunters Allergic to Meat

David Hart

A new wave of allergies threatens to turn hunters into vegetarians.

Practice under pressure with these high-intensity drills. How-To

4 Shooting Drills to Make You a Better Hunter

Jeff Johnston

Practice under pressure with these high-intensity drills.

Montana's vast wilderness provides the backdrop for a test of fortitude on the hunt for trophy black bears. North America Big Game

A Long Way Up: Montana Backcountry Black Bears

Joseph von Benedikt

Montana's vast wilderness provides the backdrop for a test of fortitude on the hunt for trophy...

See More Trending Articles

More News

In a year trying daily to defy description, even longtime cartoon hunter Elmer Fudd is being affected by the craziness of 2020. News

As 'Loony' Year Continues, Longtime Rabbit Hunter Elmer Fudd Loses His Gun

Petersen's Hunting Staff - June 08, 2020

In a year trying daily to defy description, even longtime cartoon hunter Elmer Fudd is being...

COVID-19 forces NRA to cancel 149th Annual Meetings. News

NRA Annual Meetings Cancelled Due to Coronavirus

Lynn Burkhead - March 13, 2020

COVID-19 forces NRA to cancel 149th Annual Meetings.

Stay up to date with state hunting season changes, travel restrictions, and more. News

COVID-19 Tracker: By State Updates on Seasons, Public Access

Jace Bauserman & OSG Staff - May 13, 2020

Stay up to date with state hunting season changes, travel restrictions, and more.

How COVID-19 is affecting hunters here, and around the world. News

Coronavirus and Its Role On Traveling Hunters

Joe Arterburn - March 23, 2020

How COVID-19 is affecting hunters here, and around the world.

See More News

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save.

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Petersen's Hunting subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now