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Peter Thiel defends decision to endorse Donald Trump

The PayPal founder's endorsement has roiled Silicon Valley.


Amrita Khalid


Published Oct 31, 2016   Updated May 25, 2021, 4:40 pm CDT

Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel on Monday defended his decision to support Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump

In a brief address before the National Press Club, Thiel criticized Baby Boomers, Silicon Valley elites, and the Washington establishment for ignoring the factors that lead to a political outsider like Trump becoming a major party’s nominee for president.

“Come November 9, … [the elites] hope everyone else will go back to business as usual,” said Thiel. “But it’s just this heedlessness, this temptation to ignore difficult realities indulged in by our most influential citizens, that got us where we are today.”

The PayPal founder’s $1.25 million donation to Trump’s campaign nearly two weeks ago drew a wave of criticism and calls for his resignation from Facebook‘s board of directors. Thiel’s donation was notable due to its timing; it was announced shortly after the leaked Access Hollywood tape of Trump boasting about sexually assaulting women lead to a drop in the polls and a wave of Republicans un-endorsing Trump

“No matter what happens in this election, what Trump represents isn’t crazy and it’s not going away.”

Thiel denied that his donation was in any way linked to the Trump tape and said he found Trump’s comments about women to be “clearly offensive and inappropriate.” Thiel, who spoke at the Republican National Convention on behalf of Trump this summer but had yet to contribute to the campaign before his October announcement, clarified in a question-and-answer session after the event that Trump did not at any point approach him for funds. 

“Now, I don’t agree with everything that Donald Trump has said and done. And I don’t think the millions of other people voting for him do either,” Theil said. “Nobody thinks his comments about women were acceptable. I agree they were clearly offensive and inappropriate.”

Thiel’s funding of a landmark lawsuit against Gawker Media on behalf of wrestling legend Hulk Hogan lead to the dismantling of the nearly 14-year-old media empire this summer. Some theorize that the Gawker lawsuit has lead to a chilling effect in the media during a pivotal election year defined by leaks and very little traditional press access. Thiel’s role in the Hogan suit, along with his endorsement of Trump, has made him an outsider in the largely progressive Silicon Valley. 

Thiel—who earlier this year supported Republican primary challenger and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina for the presidential ticket—made it clear that Trump’s status as a political outsider was his most important quality. Thiel argued that the wave of support for Trump was proof of the nation’s unhappiness with the current system and that Trump’ desire to ruffle feathers in Washington made him the clear path forward. 

“I don’t think the voters pull the lever in order to endorse the candidate’s flaws. It’s not a lack of judgment that leads Americans to vote for Trump,” Thiel said. “We’re voting for Trump because we judge the leadership of our country to have failed. This judgment has been hard to accept for some of this country’s most important, socially prominent people. It’s certainly been hard to accept for Silicon Valley.”

Silicon Valley’s reputation as a forward-thinking bastion of progressive energy has been called into question many times. Many feel betrayed by Thiel’s identification with the Republican party, despite his status as a gay man and pivotal role in creating the Bay Area’s young startup culture. Thiel critics have also railed against Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for allowing Thiel to remain on Facebook’s board of directors. Zuckerberg argued that removing Thiel due to his political beliefs would go against Facebook’s “culture of diversity.” Leading LGBT magazine the Advocate raised eyebrows after calling Thiel “not gay” due to his backing of Trump. 

Thiel criticized the act by the Advocate and said it was an example of the media and liberal elite’s intolerance of those who don’t conform to its views of diversity. 

“No matter what happens in this election, what Trump represents isn’t crazy and it’s not going away,” Thiel said in his prepared remarks. “He points toward a new Republican Party beyond the dogmas of Reaganism. He points even beyond the remaking of one party to a new American politics that overcomes denial, rejects bubble thinking and reckons with reality.”

In response to a question by National Press Club president Thomas Burr, Thiel said he didn’t think that his backing of Trump has negatively any of the companies, which include PayPal and Palantir.

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*First Published: Oct 31, 2016, 2:36 pm CDT