Domenic Esposito’s spoon sculpture was dropped in the driveway of Purdue Pharma’s headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut. It was part of a protest against the continuing opioid crisis and the company, partially owned by the Sacklers, that profits from the drugs. (photo by Brian F. O’Neill, 2018)

“If a male entrepreneur’s business was prospering and popular, would The New York Times dare publish an article so focused on the family business of his wife?”

The answer to Joss Sackler’s question would likely be yes. Generally, it is within the public’s interest to know what luxury goods are linked to possibly nefarious money. And if an entrepreneur’s family, like hers, was being sued by the state of Massachusetts for misleading officials on the dangers of OxyContin, then people might think twice before buying into the brand.

A scion of the Purdue Pharma fortune by marriage to David Sackler (one of eight family members mentioned in the lawsuit above) the proprietress of a private wine club called LBV recently launched an athleisure wear brand for her business called LBV Care for Joss Sackler. New York Times journalist Matthew Schneier profiled the fledgling fashion mogul, who was none too pleased when the reporter pressed Sackler for comment on her family’s relationship to the opioid crisis. The Massachusetts lawsuit alleges that the family through “Purdue Pharma created the epidemic and profited from it through a web of illegal deceit.”

Although she wouldn’t respond directly to Schneier’s questions, Sackler did respond on her own terms a day later with an open letter criticizing the journalist for what she described as his “patriarchal efforts” aiming “to undermine women’s empowerment.”

“What better truth for this sad media reality than what you have done here — using the same bait and click language to malign LBV, my own women’s initiative unrelated to Purdue, aimed at promoting women’s empowerment,” Sackler wrote online. “What you accomplished in your bait and switch text, was to relegate my identity to only being someone’s wife, thereby erasing any signs of my successes or accomplishments as a woman.”

In 2017 alone, the opioid epidemic claimed 70,200 American lives. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, over 92,100 children were placed in the foster care system in 2016 due to removal from their homes associated with parental substance use. The Sacklers are one of the wealthiest families in the world and directly profited from Purdue Pharma’s sale of OxyContin by deliberately downplaying the drug’s addictiveness. Although Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty to felony charges in 2007 for misleading doctors, the Sackler family has never been held personally responsible.

But in the court of public opinion, the billionaire family has taken a beating. Photographer Nan Goldin has lead some of the efforts in the art community against institutions who have accepted money from the Sacklers, dispersing pill bottles at the Metropolitan Museum of Art‘s Sackler pavilion and staging a die-in at the Guggenheim Museum.

Given the response on social media, fashion may be the next frontier that the Sackler family is iced out of for their bad business habits.

After the article came out, Sackler requested that Schneier remove the paragraph about her husband from the article, which he refused. “I stand by my husband because I know the whole truth,” she remarked online. “And it is not what you read in misleading and inaccurate court filings designed to generate sensational news headlines.”

Sackler’s tactic to criticize Schneier’s insistence on linking her fashion brand to the ongoing opioid crisis is reminiscent of the white feminist approach of Ivanka Trump, who has made similar comments about wanting her own public image separate from her father’s. Recently, the first daughter commented on a performance art project featuring an Ivanka lookalike vacuuming up crumbs from a carpet. “Women can choose to knock each other down or build each other up, she wrote on Twitter, “I choose the latter.”

In a similar vein, Sackler retorted to the Times article, saying, “I would like you to know that women are many things, they play many roles all at once. Our identities cannot be diluted in such a simplistic way.”

To that effect, she lists a variety of her other accomplishments in life: “I am a mother, wife, daughter, marathon runner, mountain climber (summited 2 of the 7 summits), rock climber, photographer, artist, immigrant, Ph.D. in Linguistics, President of the Columbia School Linguistic Society, Certified Sommelier, founder of LBV, female entrepreneur, designer, and fluent in 5 languages.”

“MY NAME IS JOSS. I am a woman, and I exist,” ends the letter.

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Zachary Small

Zachary Small was the senior writer at Hyperallergic and has written for The New York Times, The Financial Times, The Nation, The Times Literary Supplement, Artforum, and other publications. They have...

2 replies on “Sackler Scion Doesn’t Think the Opioid Epidemic Her Family Profited From Should Impact Her”

  1. Purdue Pharma has provided large moneys to many institutions that attempt to separate the gift from the giver including a bioethics center. Continued pressure must be place on these institutions to give the money back and publicly separate themselves from institutions like Purdue Pharma. I would hope they would learn to investigate the lenders well before eagerly accepting the gifts.

  2. Is she using this money to uplift and pay for her brand? Yeah, then she’s worth looking into. Same reason people get up in arms about Ivanka’s shoes when lots of people use sweatshops. It’s not female empowerment, it’s entitlement and the fact she thinks she is the victim is staggering.

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