Peter Thiel appears to be doubling down on his support of Donald Trump, an issue that's caused tremendous consternation in Silicon Valley in recent weeks.
The billionaire venture capitalist is slated to address an audience of journalists in Washington, D.C., Monday on the topic of the U.S. presidential election. The 11 a.m. ET speech, which will be streamed at press.org, comes on the heels of Thiel's $1.25 million donation to Trump's campaign.
Thiel's position during this election cycle has baffled and offended many in the tech community who view Trump as racist, sexist, and retrograde. Industry leaders have been nearly unanimous in their opposition to the Republican nominee and have served as a substantial source of donations for Hillary Clinton's campaign.
Forbes revealed in May that Thiel was listed as a delegate for Trump at the Republican National Convention, where he also gave a speech. Some reacted to the news with head scratching and theories that Thiel didn't actually agree with the candidate's platform, but had unspoken motives for supporting him. Some of Trump's policies--such as his stated desire to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants from the United States--seem to conflict with Thiel's perceived libertarian views.
Inc. San Francisco bureau chief Jeff Bercovici speculated Thiel may have a truly radical agenda:
"I think Peter Thiel supports Donald Trump because he believes it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to weaken America's attachment to democratic government," Bercovici wrote in July. "I'm not accusing Thiel of any ambitions he hasn't more or less copped to. In an often-quoted 2009 essay, Thiel declared, 'I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.'"
Still, Thiel delivered a speech supporting Trump at the RNC, saying, "It's time to end the era of stupid wars, and rebuild our country." He later reiterated his support with an op-ed in The Washington Post in which he wrote, "Trump's heretical denial of Republican dogma about government incapacity is exactly what we need to move the party--and the country--in a new direction."
Then, earlier this month, it was revealed Thiel had doubled down yet again on his support of Trump with his seven-figure donation. But this time the consequences went beyond criticism, in part owing to timing. The donation came shortly after a recording surfaced of Trump bragging that a man as famous as him could kiss women without their consent and grab them by the... we won't go there.
Two diversity organizations announced they would cut ties with Y Combinator until the accelerator startup formally cuts ties with Thiel, its part-time partner and investor. Y Combinator president Sam Altman tweeted he would not fire someone for supporting a major party nominee for president, even though he disagreed with Thiel's support of Trump. Facebook also came under renewed scrutiny for maintaining Thiel on its board, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg was quoted as saying support of Trump was not equivalent to "accepting sexual assault."
Most recently, Guardian reporter Julia Carrie Wong dug up quotes from a 1995 book in which Thiel and his co-author argued the definition of rape was overly broad and included "seductions that are later regretted." Wong asserted the excerpt suggested Thiel "may sympathize more with Trump--who has recently been accused of sexual assault and misconduct by several women--than with his victims."
Thiel apologized for his comments in the book. "More than two decades ago, I co-wrote a book with several insensitive, crudely argued statements," he said in a statement. "As I've said before, I wish I'd never written those things. I'm sorry for it. Rape in all forms is a crime. I regret writing passages that have been taken to suggest otherwise."
As the controversy mounts and Election Day nears, many in the tech world will be watching closely to see how Thiel handles the criticism. Judging by his past explanations, there will be no revelation of a complex plan that goes beyond supporting a presidential candidate. If there's a new point in his speech Monday, it's likely to be a defense against calls for his dismissal from board positions over his support of Trump.