Nov 6, 2022 • 3M

Chapter 8, Part 6: “A 150 IQ”

Martin Shkreli is obsessed with his IQ. For reasons passing understanding, so is everyone else.


Appears in this episode

Christie Smythe
My experiences uncovering the story of, and falling in love with, Martin Shkreli.
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Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein

It should not, in theory, matter to anyone what Martin Shkreli’s IQ is. And yet, I’m sure that if enough friends at a party or a bar started to chat about the subject — even if they all appeared to agree that it surely must fall somewhere between 129 and 140 — an intense feud would break out. Some people might go home resolving never to speak to each other again, or at the very least to never again bring up the conversation.

My prediction isn’t just based on speculation. This exact fight happened in my own home, while I was living with my ex-husband in an apartment in Park Slope. We got so angry with each other that I had to step outside, into the hallway. When I tried to walk back into the apartment, I couldn’t, though. My ex-husband had shoved a futon in front of the door to prevent me from opening it.

Eventually, he relented and moved the futon. But we never fully patched things up or reached any kind of accord. The best we could do was agree to disagree and just try not to talk about Martin’s IQ ever again.

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The incident happened in early 2018, as Martin’s lawyers were preparing for his sentencing hearing that was coming up in March. He was still at the Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center, a fortress-like federal lockup, where he’d been taken in September 2017 over a Facebook post encouraging his followers to steal hair from Hillary Clinton. The tasteless joke cost him his bail privileges.

As part of the preparations, his lawyers had hired a psychologist to do an in-depth analysis of Martin’s complex litany of mental health conditions…as well as to give him an IQ test. The “Pharma Bro,” an autodidact who had taught himself chemistry at a level on par with university PhDs, was practically giddy about the prospect of having his intelligence tested and the results made public. 

“I want to watch the press squirm when they see I have a 150 IQ and no overt psychological issues,” he bragged to me in an email from prison. (We had been getting chummier since his bail was revoked, and we exchanged friendly email messages sometimes daily.) I giggled, cringingly, when I read his comment, thinking about how much it sounded like Donald Trump’s howlingly ridiculous declaration that he was a “very stable genius.”

As per his usual pattern, Martin overshot reality by a fair margin…

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