On Friday afternoon, Martin Shkreli was convicted of securities fraud charges. Shortly after that, he returned to his apartment and started live-streaming to an admiring crowd of the Internet villain’s devoted fans.
His message, essentially, was that his admirers shouldn’t worry too much, that he felt his conviction on three of eight charges could have been worse.
“This could have been a real big setback for my life,” he said,” but it’s gonna end up being a footnote in my life.” He gave himself a “50-50 chance” of going to jail, and he seemed confident that he would serve months, at most, behind bars. Shkreli faces up to 20 years in prison, although as my colleagues report, legal experts think he’ll probably get a much shorter sentence.
Shkreli does this a lot, streaming for hours at a time, and chatting with a core group of fans who tune in to him regularly. He often streams investment advice sessions for his fans on YouTube and chatting on a private Discord server. He spent the Friday night after his 2015 arrest streaming alone in his apartment for hours.
But this stream was particularly surreal, even for Shkreli’s online presence. At one point, a New York Daily News reporter visited his apartment and interviewed him on camera, seemingly unaware that their conversation was being streamed live. He pretended to take a phone call from President Trump. He implied — but did not confirm — that he played a portion of the Wu-Tang Clan album he owns, the only known copy (he has streamed portions of it at least once before).
But mostly, he bragged. “It doesn’t seem like life will change very much for Martin Shkreli, basically ever,” he said, speaking in the third person. He later added, “I’m one of the richest New Yorkers there is, and after this outcome, it’s going to stay that way.”
Shkreli first became infamous for dramatically raising the price of a drug taken by AIDS patients. He was memed into Internet villainy for that, a role that he has, to some degree, embraced. Shkreli was suspended from Twitter in January for the “targeted harassment” of journalist Lauren Duca.
The Shkreli fandom has been a strange but persistent online rabbit hole since his rise as one of the most hated men on the Internet. Shkreli has nearly 70,000 subscribers on YouTube; his stream on Friday had a peak audience of a little over 4,000 viewers, while the New York Daily News reporter was interviewing him. Shkreli’s fandom overlaps heavily with the pro-Trump Internet; he has adapted the president’s language in calling the trial against him a “witch hunt.”
Shkreli invited reporter Ellen Moynihan into his apartment at the urging of his fans, who were hoping to watch their hero epically troll another journalist, live on camera.
The lengthy interview was tense at times, as Moynihan questioned Shkreli’s decision to dramatically raise the price of a vital drug, and Shkreli accused Moynihan’s publication of being “fake news.” The interview didn’t appear to have the anti-media “gotcha” moment Shkreli’s fans were hoping for, so some commenters in the stream’s live chat resorted to making graphic comments about the reporter’s appearance instead.
It wasn’t clear whether Moynihan was aware that their conversation was being streamed live at the time, and Moynihan declined to go on the record about the interview when reached by email.
Shkreli had been streaming for four hours at the time of this writing. Early in the evening, he took a break to, he said, visit privately with his brother. But he kept the camera rolling so that his admirers could chat with each other. At 7:30 p.m., there were more than a thousand YouTube viewers waiting for him to come back.