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Nobody Saw This Story Coming About Martin Shkreli

Reporter covering him left her job and her husband after falling in love with 'Pharma Bro'
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 21, 2020 9:35 AM CST
Updated Dec 26, 2020 6:55 AM CST

(Newser) – A story about "Pharma Bro" Martin Shkreli is making the rounds on Monday, and it's a doozy. It's an interview in Elle with former Bloomberg journalist Christie Smythe, who broke the news of his arrest in 2015 and then began corresponding and meeting with Shkreli. Things, as they say, escalated, and Smythe ended up leaving her husband and her job for Shkreli, who remains imprisoned. Coverage:

  • The start: The story in Elle by Stephanie Clifford traces Smythe's relationship with Shkreli, one that begins all-business but evolves into the pair professing their love for each other. Smythe not only left her husband, but she froze her eggs in the hope of having children with Shkeli when he's out of prison. Says Smythe: "These are incremental decisions, where you're, like, slowly boiling yourself to death in the bathtub."

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  • The twist: It all sets up as an improbable love affair until the end of the piece, when it's revealed that Shkreli cut off all contact with Smythe when he learned she was talking to Elle. Smythe voiced hope he did that to protect her from any fallout. "Mr. Shkreli wishes Ms. Smythe the best of luck in her future endeavors," he says in a statement to the magazine. Informed of this, Smythe responds, "That's sweet," though "quietly, not convincingly," writes Clifford.
  • Not giving up: Smythe still sees a shot of their relationship working out. "Watching Smythe, I finally realize her motive for telling her story," writes Clifford. "She wants Shkreli, and hopes putting their love on the record might at last give her some power in the relationship." The story concludes with a quote from Smythe: "I'm gonna try," she says. "I'll be here."
  • Reaction: Mediaite rounds up reaction of the "jaw-dropping" variety. A common view is one that sees Shkreli as a master manipulator. Others think Smythe got the upper hand, as laid out in this tweet. She sells him "out for the fame and the big book deal. Uses him, goes for the money, beats him at his own game. Price gouges the hell out of him while he sits in prison. Fairytale ending for the pharma bro age?"
  • The allusion: The story is headlined "The Journalist and the Pharma Bro," and Marie Solis at Jezebel notes that it's a nod to a famous Janet Malcolm magazine piece on the "slipperiness of the journalist-subject relationship" headlined "The Journalist and the Murderer." Solis digs into the shifting power dynamics at play between Smythe and Shkreli.
  • Smythe responds: Smythe herself weighed in on Twitter. "I realize it's hard for many people to accept that 1. Martin is not a psychopath, and 2. a woman can choose to do something with her life (which does not affect you) that you in no way approve of. But that's OK."
(Read more Martin Shkreli stories.)

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