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Critics from the right are often quick to label mainstream reporters and Democratic politicians as like-minded teammates, charing liberal journalist with cozying up to their subjects and trading warm coverage for access.
One journalist who is well aware of the stigma is former Bloomberg News reporter Christie Smythe, who famously quit her job and left her husband to pursue a relationship and tweet about jailed “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli – whom she covered.
“I think there’s absolutely credence to the concerns that reporters are sometimes too cozy with their sources,” Smythe told Fox News Digital.
REPORTER WHO FELL FOR JAILED ‘PHARMA BRO’ MARTIN SHKRELI HAS NO REGRETS, IMAGINES ‘VERY BIG HUG’ WHEN RELEASED
“If you’re on a beat, you’re expected to break stories and be first, and that often requires having a closed source relationship. Journalists should be willing to do that soul-searching and ask themselves, ‘Is this really serving the public? Is this just serving my needs to make me a star? Or is this actually getting the whole story out there? And I think that it’s unfortunate that sometimes when people take a real critical examination of that, that the media tends to circle the wagons,” Smythe added. “The news media, the mainstream news media, tends to circle the wagons and be defensive as opposed to actually thinking about those questions.”
Smythe, who attended the respected journalism school at the University of Missouri, left the mainstream media after she quit Bloomberg News to date Shkreli. She’s currently detailing her side of the infamous, viral love story in a new Substack memoir, “SMIRK: How I Fell in Love With the Most Hated Man in America,” and also serves as editor-in-chief of a startup business news publication.
Smythe, who isn’t a conservative herself, was on the receiving end of vitriol and mockery when she went public with her relationship with “Pharma Bro” in 2020. As a result, she understands the iciness that can come for mainstream journalists.
“You know, conservatives are right. Most people in the mainstream news media are liberal-leaning. You know, I would consider myself like a moderate progressive. It does feel like sometimes there is an antagonistic quality toward people who are conservative in the press, which I don’t think is orchestrated,” Smythe said. “But it is a bias that’s there, and I don’t think there’s enough really good examination of that.”
The “Smirk” author thinks her relationship with Shkreli irked many mainstream reporters who were forced to think about their own actions as her viral story dominated the media industry.
REPORTER WHO FELL FOR ‘PHARMA BRO’ MARTIN SHKRELI LAUNCHES SUBSTACK TO DETAIL BIZARRE RELATIONSHIP
“I wasn’t dating him while I was covering him. But, you know, it does make everyone think about their own source relationships and I don’t think that that made a lot of journalists feel very happy or comfortable when they started to think about that,” she said.
While Smythe insists she wasn’t dating Shkreli until after she stopped covering him, she admits she irked Bloomberg honchos by advocating for him on social media.
“I tried to be as objective as possible in my coverage, and I always do, all the time… unless I’m presenting a point of view. If I’m presenting what I’m writing as objective, I try to maintain objectivity. Whatever your feelings are on whatever your particular issue is, whatever personal relationships I might have, I try not to let that affect what is written. What is written belongs to the public,” she said. “I was unable to completely keep my opinions off of Twitter back when I was working at Bloomberg.”
Smythe says she allowed her feelings about Shkreli to “seep into” her tweets, which she said were often “mildly sympathetic,” but she also found herself sparring with his critics. Needless to say, Bloomberg News didn’t appreciate a reporter tweeting opinions about someone she was assigned to cover.
“They spoke to me a couple of times about it. They never threatened to fire me or anything like that. I offered to resign the second time they spoke to me because I just felt, ‘You know, guess what? I just don’t think the situation is workable,’” she said, claiming Bloomberg News understood the situation and didn’t find any issues with her coverage during an internal review.
Bloomberg didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Smythe walked away from Bloomberg to pursue a relationship with Shkreli, but maintains nothing physical happened when she was covering him, and left her job so she could see him on her own terms.
REPORTER QUITS JOB, LEAVES HUSBAND AFTER FALLING FOR JAILED ‘PHARMA BRO’ MARTIN SHKRELI
“We like talking to each other, but there was no… we didn’t kiss, nothing like that. But… I felt that I just couldn’t go along with how I was being told to see him. And that was why I felt like I had to leave,” she said.
Smythe’s story has been consistent, as she told Elle Magazine in 2020 that she first kissed Shkreli in a room that “smelled of chicken wings” during a visit to jail.
She doesn’t plan to go back to the mainstream media anytime soon, and isn’t sure she’d be welcomed back anyway. But getting in hot water with “mildly sympathetic” tweets about Shkreli left a bad taste in her mouth when thinking about working for a major news organization.
“There are people in the mainstream media who certainly would not welcome me back. There are some people who would… so would I ever want to go back, though? Probably not,” she said. “I just don’t think that I would feel comfortable in a situation where I felt like I was muzzled.”
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Many popular mainstream news organizations have strict policies on what employees can discuss on social media. The New York Times recently announced updated guidelines, and new CNN boss Chris Licht sent an ominous tweet last month before he took over the cable news network declaring that Twitter can “skew what’s really important in the world,” which many onlookers took as a sign that his staffers should log off.
“I’m absolutely sure that if I did find my way back to a mainstream publication, there would be some understanding about what I could speak about and what I couldn’t – me personally, I can’t tolerate that,” Smythe said.