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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Chelsea Ritschel

Journalist who dated Martin Shkreli reveals she missed marriage counselling to visit ‘pharma bro’ in jail

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Christie Smythe, the former Bloomberg journalist who left her husband to be with “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli, has opened up about their relationship and the moment she realised she was “in love” with the “the most hated man in America”.

Smythe, 39, who first spoke about her relationship with Shkreli in an Elle profile in December 2020, in which she revealed that she quit her job, divorced her husband Devin Arcoleo, and froze her eggs in the hopes of a future with the businessman, has shared additional insight into the timeline in an interview with The Sunday Times.

In 2015, Shkreli became well-known, and widely detested, when he purchased the Aids drug Daraprim and increased the price from $13.50 per pill to $750, an increase of nearly 5,000 per cent, overnight.

Smythe was introduced to the former hedge fund manager the same year, when she began covering his trial for investment fraud for Bloomberg, which eventually saw him convicted on three out of eight charges in 2017 and sentenced to seven years in federal prison.

As told to The Times, she first met the businessman in person at his Manhattan office in January 2016, when he was on bail. Reflecting on the moment, the journalist said: “I don’t think I was attracted to him initially. Well, maybe. It was more of a curiosity. I was not thinking about him as a romantic subject.”

The former journalist recalled that her husband started to warn her that she was becoming too “tangled” in the businessman’s web after she began meeting up with Shkreli occasionally.

While speaking to The Times, Smythe said her relationship with her husband deteriorated further after she finally convinced him to attend marriage counselling in 2017, only to miss nearly the entire appointment because it coincided with her first visit to see Shkreli in jail.

“I didn’t count the minutes - he did,” Smythe told the outlet of her husband’s reaction to her showing up 52 minutes late to their hour-long counselling appointment. “We still went to marriage counselling later and it was a disaster, of course. Nothing was counselled.”

As for her relationship with Shkreli, Smythe recalled how it had continued to grow and “proudly” told the outlet that she was “the first person he added to his visitor list.” She also shared that she got a driver’s licence solely so that she would be able to visit him easily in prison.

“I was feeling extremely frustrated by having to keep everything bottled up,” she said. “I was just, like: ‘Everyone is so worried about what? That I will fall in love with him?’ After that thought sunk in, I was like: ‘You know what, maybe I do love him - screw everyone.’”

By 2018, amid pushback from Bloomberg over the closeness of the pair’s relationship, Smythe had resigned from her job and left her marriage of nearly a decade to be with Shkreli.

She admitted her feelings to Shkreli shortly after, with the pair sharing their first kiss in prison. During her visits, Smythe said she and Shkreli also spent hours talking about “books, science, pharmaceuticals, crypto, family, hopes and dreams,” and that he took her writing career seriously, which she described as “of course, very flattering”.

“We were never at a loss for anything to say. We were always making each other laugh,” she said, adding that they also spoke about their future together, and began referring to one another as fiancé and fiancée.

She also spoke of the sexual nature of their relationship, telling the outlet: “Let’s face it, sexual desire isn’t politically correct. You can’t impose an academic view on what we’re supposed to be turned on by. As a woman, yes, I find people who take some risks and are a little bit irreverent to be sexy. I definitely find it appealing to be with somebody who is willing to break the rules sometimes.”

The couple’s relationship became strained in 2020 as a result of the Covid pandemic, however, which meant that Smythe was unable to see the convicted businessman, who she described as her “would-be life partner,” for months.

Smythe told The Times that she decided to speak to Elle about the couple’s relationship at the end of a 10-month period of long-distance, as she felt she couldn’t keep living a “double life”.

The interview did not go over well with Shkreli, who ended his and Smythe’s relationship via a statement from his lawyers to the magazine. “Mr Shkreli wishes Ms Smythe the best of luck in her future,” the statement said, which Smythe described as “hurtful”.

While speaking to The Sunday Times, she disputed rumours that her romantic relationship with the infamous businessman was one-sided. “I don’t think anyone who’s ever seen us interact would think it was a one-sided romance,” she said. Smythe also strongly condemned those who questioned her mental health after the Elle interview, telling the outlet that the criticism over her choices has been “incredibly sexist”.

Smythe, who still defended Shkreli’s widely condemned actions to the newspaper, has since moved on and entered a new relationship with a man she describes as “a lovely person, very low-drama,” and which she noted is “a nice change of pace”.

Despite being in a new relationship, she said she’s spoken to Shkreli, who was released from prison early for good behaviour this year, and that the pair are still friends and are planning to meet up. She also said that she has no regrets about the past.

While looking towards the future, Smythe is slated to self-publish a memoir titled Smirk about Shkreli on Substack. She says the move “secretly, or maybe not so secretly, [makes her] the winner in all this” and that she will “always care” for her ex, and that those feelings will “never go away”.

After the article was published Sunday, reigniting a conversation about Shkreli and the pair’s controversial relationship, Smythe again publicly defended her ex.

“If you say all people deserve second chances and a shot at redemption EXCEPT Martin Shkreli (or except whomever the internet has decided to hate at a given moment), you really don’t mean that,” she wrote. She has since made her Twitter account private.

The Independent has contacted Smythe for comment.

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