The internet can’t stop talking about ‘The Journalist and the Pharma Bro’ — a new profile on Christie Smythe and her relationship with Martin Shkreli, who’s currently in prison on a fraud conviction.
Christie Smythe caught the internet’s attention on December 22, when a lengthy profile about her relationship with Martin Shkreli was published by Elle magazine. Smythe, a former court reporter for Bloomberg News, unfolded the whirlwind story about how she fell in love with Shkreli — a former pharmaceutical executive and biotech entrepreneur — while reporting on his case and subsequently breaking the news of his 2015 arrest. Shkreli (the so-called “Pharma Bro,” as Elle states) increased the price of a lifesaving drug by 5,000 percent overnight and was convicted of federal fraud in 2017. He’s now serving seven years in prison.
While sitting in on his trial, Smythe said she fell in love with Shkreli. Stephanie Clifford, the author of the Elle profile, was also covering the trial and sat next to Smythe during the court proceedings. “We were pressroom colleagues, and it was a very friendly pressroom,” Clifford told New York Magazine‘s Intelligencer, adding, “I got the sense that something more was going on between Christie and Shkreli.” — Learn more about Smythe and her story, below:
1. What happened? — Fast-forward to July 2018, in the course of nine months, Smythe said she’d quit her job at Bloomberg News, moved out of the Brooklyn apartment she had lived in with her husband (and her rescue dog) and divorced him. Ultimately, Smythe decided to walk away from her “perfect little Brooklyn life” for Shkreli. “I fell down the rabbit hole,” she told Elle of the events that turned her life upside down. Today, Smythe says she has no regrets. “I’m happy here. I feel like I have purpose,” she said.
2. The first meeting. — After covering the case and Shkreli’s subsequent arrest, Smythe received a call from Shkreli and managed to arrange an in-person meeting. He “started giving me a spiel,” Smythe recalled of the meeting. “You could see his earnestness. It just didn’t match this idea of a fraudster,” she said of the meeting, during which Smythe claimed Shkreli had shown her spreadsheets of his funds showing investors’ holdings.
Following the meeting, Smythe said “he kept toying with me for a while,” in terms of her requests to do a profile on him. Nonetheless, the pair developed a friendly rapport. “It really felt like he didn’t have anybody to talk to that he could bounce ideas off of,” Smythe said, recalling, “I was like, ‘All right. I guess I can do that.'” — And she did, despite a professor at her journalism fellowship at Columbia University warning her about striking up a bond with Shkreli.
“Maybe I was being charmed by a master manipulator,” Smythe told Elle. Still, she continued to visit Shkreli in prison for months after her separation from her husband. In the visitors’ room during one visit, “I told Martin I loved him,” Smythe recalled, adding, “And he told me he loved me, too.” Per prison rules, the pair could only kiss and hug. They also continued to arrange visits, phone calls, and emails.
“It’s hard to think of a time when I felt happier,” Smythe recalled. “At first he’s like, ‘Can I call you my girlfriend?’” she said, which “led very naturally into thinking about a future together.” Soon after, Smythe said the two were discussing their kids’ names and prenups. “I still was in denial about it, but this really hit me hard,” Smythe remembered.
3. Smythe hasn’t spoken to Shkreli since the release of her Elle profile. — “He really hates that I did this article,” she wrote in reply to a Twitter user who asked if the pair has spoken. She added that the COVID-19 pandemic “makes communication difficult.” The publication (Elle) also noted that Shkreli stopped communicating with Smythe after he found out about the article. Additionally, when Elle reached out for comment, Shkreli said in a statement (via his lawyers) that he “wishes Ms. Smythe the best of luck in her future endeavors.” Smythe added in the profile that she hasn’t seen Shkreli since February 2020.
“He bounces between this delight in having a future life together and this fatalism about how it will never work,” Smythe told Elle, adding, “It’s definitely in the latter category now.”
4. Following the article’s publication, Smythe defended her relationship with Shkreli 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,” she wrote in one tweet. In a separate tweet, she wrote, “Going public is such a relief, no matter what people think. You have no idea how hard it is to keep this kind of a story bottled up. So messy and complicated,” Smythe wrote, adding, “I’m glad it was told well.”
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.
— Christie Smythe (@ChristieSmythe) December 21, 2020
Going public is such a relief, no matter what people think. You have no idea how hard it is to keep this kind of a story bottled up. So messy and complicated. I'm glad it was told well. https://t.co/bJFPDG4lw6
— Christie Smythe (@ChristieSmythe) December 21, 2020
4. What’s life like today? — Smythe was writing a book about Shkreli. The author of the Elle profile told the Intelligencer that she read Smythe’s book proposal, which also included film rights that she ultimately sold for a small sum. Clifford said Smythe’s book is something she “kind of gave up on,” adding that the proposal “was very much focused on Shkreli, obviously, and a little bit on their evolving friendship at that time.” Though, Clifford said Smythe “is not actively trying to write it, but I imagine there will be some degree of interest after this.”
Smythe now works remotely for a journalism start-up, where her boss is aware of her relationship with Shkreli. Now, Smythe says she will continue to wait for Shkreli while he serves the remaining years of his sentence. “I’m gonna try. I’ll be here,” she told Elle.
5. As for life before Shkreli? — Smythe attended the journalism school at the University of Missouri and worked for two small newspapers before moving to New York in 2008,” as described in her Elle profile. Following her work at a legal news company, she started covering Brooklyn federal court for Bloomberg News in 2012. Two years later, Smythe married her boyfriend of five years (her aforementioned ex-husband), who worked in investment management.