One of the tech industry’s favorite sons has aligned himself with one of the most disliked national personalities in Silicon Valley.
The revelation that billionaire PayPal founder and Facebook investor Peter Thiel is listed as a delegate in the state of California for presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump shocked some tech heavyweights like Uber investor Chris Sacca and Box CEO Aaron Levie:
Thiel has long described himself as a libertarian, and so what’s surprising to many is not that he’s come out in support of a Republican, but that he’s come out in support of a Republican who wants to ban Muslims, build a wall along the Mexican border, and who has not unconvincingly been labeled a misogynist for his public treatment of women. But what many of these outraged observers have failed to admit—perhaps because outrage plays better on Twitter than embarrassment—is that despite the tech industry’s canonization of Thiel as a genius, the investor’s often controversial attitudes about women, minorities, and immigration aren't that far from those expressed by Trump and have been for some time.
In 2009, Thiel seemed to suggest that the United States might be better off had women never been given the right to vote:
Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise [of voting] to women—two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians—have rendered the notion of "capitalist democracy" into an oxymoron.
(He later posted an addendum clarifying his comments: "It would be absurd to suggest that women’s votes will be taken away or that this would solve the political problems that vex us. While I don’t think any class of people should be disenfranchised, I have little hope that voting will make things better.")
In The Diversity Myth, the 1996 book that Thiel coauthored with now-CEO at Zenefits David Sacks, the pair defended one of Thiel’s schoolmates at Harvard who shouted outside an instructor's home, "F*ggot! F*ggot! Hope you die of AIDS!" by characterizing the outburst as a brave challenge against multiculturalism. That schoolmate, Keith Rabois, went on to serve as an executive at PayPal, LinkedIn, and Square, and up until his resignation in 2014 sat on the board of directors at Yelp. (It's worth noting, though, that Thiel has a history of supporting gay-rights causes and the college-age fellows whom he funds are a fairly diverse group.)
In a 1996 Stanford magazine article, Thiel wrote—again, with David Sacks—about why affirmative action programs are "racism" that "betray Martin Luther King’s dream."
And in 2008, Thiel gave a $1 million donation to NumbersUSA, an anti-immigration lobbying group that the Southern Poverty Law Center writes "was conceived and birthed by a man who sees America under threat by non-white immigrants"
So all those Silicon Valley fanboys and figureheads shocked that Thiel is one of Trump’s delegates? They shouldn’t be.
This story has been updated.