After Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., rejected a presidential campaign donation from Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli last week, the drug executive struck back. Shkreli called Sanders a “demagogue” in an interview with Fox Business Friday and said the Democratic presidential candidate will “say anything to get a vote.”
“For me to be his piñata is unacceptable. I think he has a lot of great ideas,” Shkreli said. “But if he wants to talk about pharmaceuticals, he can do that with me. He’s refusing to do that because I think he’s afraid of the issues. I think I’d destroy him in any debate about pharmaceuticals.”
“I don’t think he understands pharmaceuticals at all,” Shkreli added.
Shkreli reached out to Sanders because he liked his campaign and wanted to explain his company’s policies on drug prices after a controversy that gave him the nicknames the “most-hated man in America” and “Pharma Bro.” But when the Turing CEO donated $2,700 to Sanders’ campaign, the Vermont Senator decided he did not want money from the drug executive. Instead, his campaign told the Boston Globe that it would be donating the money to the Whitman-Walker health clinic in Washington, D.C.
The public outrage over Shkreli's actions occurred when his company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, bought the 62-year old drug Daraprim, which can be lifesaving for cancer and AIDS patients, and then increased the drug’s price by 5,000 percent in September. The Internet exploded with criticism for the company, and Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton weighed in, calling the change “outrageous.”
Price gouging like this in the specialty drug market is outrageous. Tomorrow I'll lay out a plan to take it on. -H https://t.co/9Z0Aw7aI6h
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) September 21, 2015
After Shkreli rose to prominence and journalists scoured his social media feeds, which were full of selfies and bragging posts, he received the nickname “Pharma Bro” and was seen as a prime villain for Democratic candidates, who have talked about lowering drug prices and fighting corruption of large companies that gouge prices.
Shkreli initially reached out to Sanders and Clinton on Twitter with questions for them regarding public opposition to his company raising drug prices.
— Martin Shkreli (@MartinShkreli) October 12, 2015
But since then, he has continued tweeting about Sanders, often getting angry or criticizing the candidate.
— Martin Shkreli (@MartinShkreli) October 17, 2015
SO ANGRY AT @BernieSanders I COULD PUNCH A WALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1
— Martin Shkreli (@MartinShkreli) October 18, 2015
— Martin Shkreli (@MartinShkreli) October 19, 2015
In the Fox Business interview, Shkreli said he was angry that Sanders donated the $2,700 on his behalf without asking but that he enjoys giving his money to organizations that need it. “I’ve actually offered last night to give $50,000 to that clinic,” he said, referring to the health clinic to which Sanders gave Shkreli’s campaign donation. “So I hope they accept my donation directly from me.”