Donald Trump is a man who seems to love talking about his financial success at every possible opportunity, like at the Republican presidential debate last week when he introduced himself by saying he's "made billions and billions of dollars." Given his business success — and his love of his business success — it came as a surprise when Trump criticized fellow businessman Martin Shkreli in an statement to reporters in South Carolina on Wednesday. It's less of a surprise, though, that the insults were of Shkreli's appearance, saying the pharmaceutical CEO "looks like a spoiled brat."
The move isn't a new tactic for Trump, but it doesn't bode well that someone who wants to be president is apparently prone to resorting to childish name-calling. "That guy is nothing," Trump said of Shkreli. "He's zero. He's nothing. He ought to be ashamed of himself." Trump added Shkreli seemed to think he was "hot stuff."
Shkreli, a former hedge fund manager who's now the CEO of pharmaceutical company Turing Pharmaceuticals, made headlines this week when he raised the price of one of his company's drugs, Daraprim (a treatment for toxoplasmosis, a disease that results from parasitic infection), by more than 5,000 percent. The 62-year-old Daraprim had cost $13.50 per pill, but Shkreli increased the price to $750 per pill. Consumers and public figures alike were quick to criticize the move — even Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton weighed in on Monday, tweeting that Shkreli's decision was "outrageous." As the negative publicity mounted, Shkreli announced Tuesday he was reversing his decision and that Turing will lower the cost of the drug in the next few weeks.
Trump's comments on Wednesday hark back to a statement he made earlier this month about fellow Republican presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina. In an interview with Rolling Stone's Paul Solotaroff, Trump said to "look at that face" in reference to Fiorina, a comment that compelled her to make an inspirational and identity politics-laced campaign ad in response. Trump later backtracked during the second GOP debate, calling Fiorina a "beautiful woman," but the damage had been done. Trump's comments hurt his reputation in more ways than one, and his comments about Shkreli further illustrate that point.
By insulting the appearances of people he doesn't agree with, Trump is revealing how he deals with conflict — and his strategy isn't one that will be very effective if he's elected president. If Trump's response to all of his critics will be to insult their appearances, he's not going to be a very effective leader. Had Trump used the press conference to criticize Shkreli's plan to "turn a profit" by dramatically increasing the drug price, he could have won more support from Americans concerned with his money-making agenda. Instead, Trump brought the conversation back to middle school — not what you'd hope to see from a presidential candidate.