Just when you thought that maybe he was out of the news for good, the ongoing saga of "pharma bro" Martin Shkreli continues. Now, Shkreli is back in jail for offering to pay $5,000 to anyone who could bring him a strand of Hillary Clinton's hair — follicle included.
Shkreli, who was convicted on two counts of securities fraud and one count of conspiracy in early August, posted a $5 million bail to stay out of jail before his sentencing, which is due to take place in January. A federal judge revoked Shkreli's bail, however, after Shkreli put up a Facebook post stating that he would pay someone to obtain a hair of Clinton's for him. The post read:
The Clinton Foundation is willing to KILL to protect its secrets. So on HRC's book tour, try to grab a hair from her. I must confirm the sequences I have. Will pay $5,000 per hair obtained from Hillary Clinton.
The New York Times reports that he later edited the post to say that it was meant to be taken satirically, but then he posted a second one saying “$5,000 but the hair has to include a follicle. Do not assault anyone for any reason ever (LOLIBERALS).” When it became clear that the posts could cause trouble for him, Shkreli apologized in writing to the federal judge, saying that the post was meant to be taken as satire.
Judge Kiyo Matsumoto, however, did not take it as such. “The fact that he continues to remain unaware of the inappropriateness of his actions or words demonstrates to me that he may be creating ongoing risk to the community," she said. "This is a solicitation of assault. That is not protected by the First Amendment.”
Shkreli's lawyers made the argument that none of Shkreli's followers would take him seriously, and that his statements were stupid and inappropriate, but not dangerous. To that, Judge Matsumoto noted that Shkreli has no way of predicting how people would take his statements.
“He doesn’t know who his followers are," she said. "He doesn’t know if someone it going to take his offer seriously. … He is soliciting an assault on another person for $5,000.”
The Secret Service took the threat to Clinton's safety seriously enough to increase security during her book tour and to request an interview with Shkreli, The Washington Post reports.
This also isn't the first time that Shkreli has dabbled in online harassment, and it's not the first time that he's seemed unable to understand the consequences of his words. He was suspended from Twitter after his "targeted harassment" of journalist Lauren Duca, which he claimed wasn't harassment because Duca hadn't asked him to stop. Duca, however, had received rape threats and death threats after having a heated exchange on television with Fox's Tucker Carlson, and Shkreli's harassment of her on Twitter, while it didn't include any specific threats, was the most public example of this.
Duca wrote a personal essay on how the online trolling had affected her, but it seems likely that Shkreli either didn't read it or didn't take it to heart. This is a guy who has consistently been inflammatory online, and he seems particularly unable to understand the potential real-life results of his online comments. Online harassment, as Duca explains in her essay, is a serious problem facing women who choose to live even remotely public lives. And when you have such a big following, it's impossible to guess how all of those fans will take your provocation. Perhaps Shkreli really did mean it has a joke — but there's no guarantee, as the judge said, that everyone else would.
Hillary Clinton has no doubt faced more harassment than most people in general, but it doesn't always lead to an increased security detail. Clinton and Duca are both safer without Shkreli inciting potential violence against them, whether or not he understands that.