“If he manipulated me, I’m glad it worked”
Last December, former Bloomberg reporter Christie Smythe, now 39, shocked the country when she revealed she had fallen in love with “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli – who is serving a sentence of seven. years for lying and defrauding investors, among other charges – only to be thrown by him from prison. Now with a new documentary on Shkreli Diffusion October 5, the Manhattanite writes about the fallout from this bombshell and his continuing friendship with Shkreli.commotion
OK fine. I admit it. I have a weakness for complicated guys.
Perfectly functional, socially evolved, and emotionally mature men are not really my type, at least when it comes to my personal life. You might call me a bad feminist for saying that, but I don’t think, as a 39-year-old self-employed professional woman, that I need to justify my tastes.
Perhaps this is a plausible explanation why I fell in love with “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli.
You may remember when I went public with our relationship last December, via a story in Elle magazine (by writer Stéphanie Clifford). The internet has seen a minor collapse in this regard. While it wasn’t my plan to make so much noise, I wasn’t shocked by the reaction.
You see, Martin wasn’t just any bad boy. He had been dubbed “America’s most hated man”. The press has used just about every negative adjective coined to describe it. He got this treatment by massively raising the price of a toxoplasmosis drug sticker while he was CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, being sent to jail for securities fraud, and trolling journalists in all kinds of ways. subversive (and sometimes deplorable).
During this time, I had been a reporter for a major media outlet, where I told the story of Martin’s arrest and covered his securities fraud case. I was also married at the time. In theory, I was the last person who should have been dragged into Martin’s orbit, but I got there anyway.
A graduate of two of the top journalism schools in the country, I’m well aware that journalists aren’t supposed to get romantically involved with topics or sources – and indeed, I didn’t while covering. Martin. I am also not inclined to cheat on a spouse, as I am a deeply honest person. Yet, today as I write this, I am now (luckily) divorced, (thankfully) no longer working in mainstream media and (thankfully) still friends with, albeit no longer, girlfriend, Martin Shkreli.
So how did it all happen? The internet has produced a lot of inane theories: that I was ‘crazy’, or ‘for her money’, or a ‘famous prostitute’, or just ‘trying to sell a book’. To be fair, I was working on an experience book, and still am. By far the most ridiculous idea that people seemed to settle for was that I was somehow “manipulated” by Martin into quitting my job and my husband for him, like a guy who couldn’t avoid being a moving train wreck had magical coercive powers.
First of all: it doesn’t.
There is certainly some truth in the stories that Martin can be manipulative. He is very intelligent, having learned biology and chemistry among other technical subjects himself, and can be very entertaining and affable in conversation when with someone he loves. Like most other human beings, he knows how to activate his charm to get what he wants.
While researching my book, I spoke to a number of his former girlfriends and learned how he used them with things like expensive jewelry and shoes, travel, and other gifts to gain their favor. However, I’m not really interested in the Jimmy Choos and the free handbags. I am also not interested in transparent handling behavior.
If there was anything Martin had done to gain my favor, it was to give a gift of a very different kind, a gift that is infinitely more precious to me: he showed respect for my intellect and my abilities. From the start of our interactions, I felt like we were really connected. He asked me for my opinion on important issues and seemed to take to heart many of the things I said. He read my writings, for real, and told me about it. In fact, he was impressed enough with my work to encourage me to write a book first.
I didn’t know how to rate all this flattering behavior at first. For a moment I wondered if this too was not some sort of ploy. But as our friendship evolved and we spent hours chatting together on numerous prison visits, and I got to know his family, friends and others around him, I realized that our mutual investment was real.
We started to infiltrate each other. He began to talk about taking a ‘waking’ turn from his previous trolling, contributing more meaningfully to rare disease treatments and no longer raising drug prices, and trying to do the right things to help. the society.
I started to think more confidently – not quite on par with Martin’s Trumpian bravado, but more confident as a writer and editor, as well as a general actor, and more sure of myself to create my own destiny.
Indeed, after Martin introduced me to two of his friends in prison, the two men of color who had received horribly draconian sentences for non-violent drug crimes, articles I wrote and published on Medium fostered conversations that led to the release of the two.
By the time I left my job and my husband, I had decided that none of my relationships were satisfactory to me. Both, in some ways, limited me, controlled me, and caused me unnecessary anxiety. I wanted the agency and I wouldn’t settle for less. When I first went public in Elle, I knew Martin wouldn’t be happy. The thought of splashing a personal relationship across the pages of a magazine horrified him.
But even his feelings, at that point, left me out when it came to deciding what I wanted. The coronavirus raged through the US prison system at the time (and still is to a large extent). I was worried sick about him and also tired of hiding, so I did what I felt was best.
Now, I still live in Harlem, although I moved to a nicer apartment, and found a job in the thriving digital media space, helping to create a post for an alternative data startup called Thinknum.
I don’t know what will happen when Martin gets out of prison. I hope he takes some of the things we’ve talked about to heart and makes a serious effort to apply to something good. I don’t imagine we would be “together” in a romantic sense, but a lifelong friendship seems likely.
In the end, if this was all just a manipulation – getting myself to take charge of my life and write the story for myself – I’m glad it worked.