Martin Shkreli, the smirking pharmaceutical executive who infuriated Congress last week by refusing to answer their questions, then calling them “imbeciles” on Twitter, proved he has an over abundance of nerve.
On Friday, he took to the Internet to take questions from the public. He asked for people who were “ready to hate and debate” to pitch him questions on the live stream.
And for approximately eight hours, starting at around 9 a.m., they did – about 600 viewers on Spreecast, a free Internet broadcasting platform, interacting with Shkreli, who wore a green T-shirt as he sat in the middle of his messy, New York apartment with a guitar.
Shortly after starting the stream, he tweeted, “New webcast. Looking for a debate. Congress welcome.”
Shkreli, who was arrested on securities fraud charges this past December, is known as the “bad boy of pharma.” He raised the price of a life-saving anti-HIV drug, Deraprim, by 5,000 per cent, from $13.50 a tablet to $750. That’s what got him hauled before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, where he consistently invoked his right against self-incrimination by citing what he called his “Fifth Amendment privilege.”
There was no such hesitance in his life stream, however, something that many found shocking, though perhaps typical for a man who’s shown no qualms about provoking hostility.
“It really seems bizarre to me that he would run the risk of infuriating Congress by snubbing them and then responding to the same questions by other people,” said Ed Wasserman, dean of the Journalism school at University of California, Berkeley.
In his live stream, Shkreli said he was taking questions from the public that he’d refused to answer before Congress because he considered that he’d been subpoenaed unethically and that the members of Congress weren’t interested in hearing his answers, but instead were motivated by what he said was “self-interest.”
On the live stream, Shkreli tried to put his pricing practices in the best light. In response to a questioner from Africa who asked him why his drug was expensive, Shkreli said he’ll be giving out another life-saving drug, which is pending FDA approval, in Africa for free.
Later, he claimed that by creating life-saving drugs, “he is doing God’s work here”.
David Benowitz, a Washington, D.C., criminal defense attorney, said he couldn’t imagine that Shkreli’s legal team had sanctioned the live stream. The Fifth Amendment, Benowitz said, “is there for a reason, but now he is locking himself in a version of events.”
“Federal investigators are probably watching this stream right now and are going to go back and investigate and cross-check his every word,” he added.