How Theranos threatened some of the WSJ’s sources
Gabriel Penna of Chief Executive interviewed Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou about his coverage of blood testing company Theranos and its CEO, Elizabeth Holmes.
Here is an excerpt:
You did a lot of reporting and writing on this story before “Bad Blood” came out. At what point did you think it would be a good book?
In the summer of 2015, the way the company counterattacked [my reporting] as I relate in the book, was in some ways really astonishing and I’d never experienced anything like it. And I’m getting threatened, my paper’s getting threatened, my sources are also being followed and threatened. The number two guy at the company is flying out to Arizona to threaten doctors who have spoken to me on the record. I mean it was completely surreal.
And the first thought that came to me is, “I’m like living a movie right now.” So it wasn’t long before that thought became, “This is a book. This story could carry a book.” And shortly thereafter I started hatching the plan in my mind that I needed to look into a book. And of course it all hinged on getting that first story published October of 2015, so I still had to concentrate on that. But the seeds were planted for a book that summer.
What really stuck out to me in the book is you really go through all the people who basically enabled Theranos and Elizabeth, including the media. I mean you don’t even spare your own paper. There are so many things here that really lead her to have this monumental rise. Why did so many people fail to see the reality here?
I think it’s a combination of several factors. One is this second bubble, as I like to call it, in Silicon Valley…which by the way hasn’t really deflated. It’s kind of a gold rush environment. The sums of money coursing through that ecosystem are enormous…since basically the rise of Facebook…there’s been this gold rush mentality out there and there’s been this mentality of trying to get on the next rocket ship. And I think that was a factor that influenced people like [well-known lawyer] David Boies, the way he took compensation, in Theranos shares instead of money, it influenced those elderly ex-statesmen, they were all given shares for being on the board.
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