Ex-Bloomberg reporter Christie Smythe reported on the crimes of pharmaceutical exec Martin Shkreli, and fell for him as she did

By Jeff Truesdell
December 22, 2020 02:17 PM
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Journalist Christie Smythe is confronting head-on the fallout from her revelation that she fell into a romance with disgraced and jailed former pharmaceutical exec Martin Shkreli while covering his downfall — including his apparent curt dismissal of the future together she'd once envisioned.

And she's open to dating again while Shkreli is behind bars serving seven years for securities fraud, saying, "I'm not going to sit around and wait," she tells the New York Post.

“I’m here in the sense that I care for him. I love him," she told the newspaper. "I’d be interested in seeing if we can make some kind of future work, if that’s what he wants to do."

It would appear he does not.

“Mr. Shkreli wishes Ms. Smythe the best of luck in her future endeavors,’’ a lawyer for Shkreli wrote in a statement that was included in an article published Sunday by Elle, in which Smyhe described her relationship with the man whose unapologetic overnight 5,000 percent price hike for a lifesaving drug in 2015 led him to be derided as "Pharma Bro."

Christie Smythe, left, and Martin Shkreli
| Credit: Christie Smythe/Twitter; Drew Angerer/Getty

“He basically dumped me through his lawyers," Smythe, a former crime reporter for Bloomberg News who quit her job and divorced her husband as she fell hard for Shkreli, told the Post.

“That was a classic break-up-slash-if-you-fire-somebody kind of line," she said. "It was heartbreaking and really sad.’’

She further told The New York Times that Shkreli no longer answers her emails after they last spoke on the phone over the summer.

Even so, “I love him,” she told the Times. “I’m here for him.”

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Shkreli was convicted in 2017 of securities and wire fraud for misleading investors and illegally using funds from a biotech company he once ran — following an investigation and trial that Smythe covered.

As CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, Shkreli had increased the price of Daraprim — the only FDA-approved treatment for a rare parasitic infection called toxoplasmosis that strikes pregnant women, cancer patients and AIDS patients — from $13.50 to $750 a pill. The increase sparked backlash, prompting Shkreli to lower the price of the drug.

After he was initially arrested and released on the securities fraud allegations, Shkreli called Smythe, leading her to meet up with him, she told Elle. "You could see his earnestness," she recalled of that encounter, during which he tried to prove his innocence. "It just didn’t match this idea of a fraudster."

Later, Smythe said "he kept toying with me for a while," and the two eventually developed a friendly rapport as she continued to angle for access for a profile of Shkreli.

"It really felt like he didn’t have anybody to talk to that he could bounce ideas off of," she said. "I was like, 'All right. I guess I can do that.'"

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Her journalism professor cautioned about the danger of becoming too close to her source. Later still, as Smythe became more vocal with her support for Shkreli on social media, her Bloomberg bosses warned her about tweeting and defending him. She left the job, and moved ahead with her divorce as her devotion to Shkreli grew, she said.

Without her job or her husband, Smythe said “that totally eroded any defenses I had left,” and she decided to no longer hold back her feelings for the convicted criminal, reported Elle.

"I told Martin I loved him," she recalled of one prison visit. "And he told me he loved me, too."

Being called victim 'feels very sexist to me'

In a followup interview published Monday by the magazine, Smythe addressed those she says have misunderstood her.

"It’s a little depressing and saddening because I don't like being called 'the victim,' 'mentally ill': neither of those things are accurate," she said. "I respect and understand if people criticize my decisions. That's fair. I put it out there. It's fair game. But I made these choices very consciously."

She added: "In a weird way, in an almost a sociological way, it's interesting watching the threads of attack, and looking for sexism buried in the themes and all these struggles people have with someone just coming up and saying they love him.""Like the mental illness thing, like the victim thing, like 'He conned you,'" she said. "I mean, people can have whatever opinion they want. I can't do anything about it. But it is all somehow trying to get around the fact that I am not what they expected. I think people have a certain image of him in their heads, and I don't fit what goes in that box; they’ve got to explain it somehow."

She continued: "What feels very sexist to me is, why am I a victim? I chose to do this. There's nothing bad that has happened to me other than a bunch of people being nasty to me online."

'Finding love with Martin was a great joy for me,' she told judge

In April, Smythe joined with attorneys seeking a compassionate prison release for Shkreli, writing to a federal judge that she would let him continue to serve his sentence in home confinement at her Manhattan apartment, reports the Times.

“It has been a long emotional journey for me from when I first came into your courtroom as a journalist covering Martin Shkreli’s case in 2015 to the present moment, as I submit this letter to you as his girlfriend and would-be life partner,” she wrote to Judge Kiyo Matsumoto of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, according to the unredacted correspondence obtained by the Times.“Your Honor, finding love with Martin was a great joy for me," Smythe wrote.

She was realistic, but unapologetic, about her feelings about Shkreli in her comments to Elle on Monday, including her response to those now popping up online who alleged he flirted with them.

"I am certain he flirted with all the people," she said. "He got lots of letters."

Citing his "intelligence and his energy and endless curiosity," Smythe said, "He can talk about anything, literally anything, can have a fascinating probing discussion on just about any topic, both low and high culture."

Asked if she expected to hear again from him after sharing her story, she said: "I don't know. I could not possibly guess what he will do. His friends have been very supportive. I've gotten lots of nice emails from them, saying they think it’s cool, what I’ve done, what the story is and getting it out there."