Shkreli insults Congress on Twitter after smirking, refusing to testify

Shkreli smirks during the hearing.
Shkreli smirks during the hearing.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Former Turing Pharmaceuticals chief executive officer Martin Shkreli on Thursday called members of the US Congress "imbeciles" on Twitter, moments after he refused to testify before a House of Representatives committee on why his company raised the price of a lifesaving medicine by 5,000 per cent.

"Hard to accept that these imbeciles represent the people in our government," said Shkreli, using his @MartinShkreli Twitter handle.

Earlier, Shkreli invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and declined to answer questions from lawmakers about drug price increases he engineered, such as hiking the price of 62-year-old Daraprim to US$750 (S$1,000) a pill from US$13.50.

During the hearing, Shkreli, whose youth and attitude have prompted some critics to label him "Pharmabro," responded to questions by laughing, twirling a pencil and yawning.

After his appearance, he tweeted: "I had prior counsel produce a memo on facial expressions during congressional testimony if anyone wants to see it. Interesting precedence."

He retweeted several posts, including one from Michael J Lis (@mikeylis) that said: "Congress should just ask @MartinShkreli questions on Twitter instead of putting them in front of the house committee."

Shkreli, 32, also interacted with some journalists, responding to one remark on his voting record with "have never voted and never will."

Shkreli, who sparked outrage last year after the big hike in the price of 62-year-old Daraprim, was a trending topic on social media following the hearing.

There were about 40 posts per minute about him on Twitter as of midday on Thursday, according to analytics firm Zoomph.

About 92,000 people were talking about Shkreli on Facebook.

His appearance on Thursday angered members of Congress.

Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders), US senator from Vermont and Democratic presidential candidate, tweeted: "The American people are fed up with the blatant profiteering of pharmaceutical company CEOs like Martin Shkreli. It must end."

US Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham (@RepLujanGrisham), a New Mexico Democrat, said: "With all of the smirking, does @MartinShkreli really take this issue seriously? #PharmaBro."

Twitter sentiment was negative overall towards Shkreli, according to Zoomph, and some tweets indicated it was not much better toward members of Congress.

WDW Vacationer (@WDWVacationer) tweeted: "Trey Gowdy might be worse than Shkreli," referring to an exchange in which the Republican representative from South Carolina got Shkreli to confirm how his last name is pronounced and then said: "See? ... You did just answer a question."