Technology

What, Thiel worry?

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg stands by Trump supporter Peter Thiel despite a Valley backlash

Mark Zuckerberg is standing by Peter Thiel

In case you thought tech billionaire Peter Thiel’s support for Donald Trump might cause problems in super-liberal Silicon Valley, think again.

In a leaked memo sent to employees, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Thiel isn’t leaving the board of the social media company anytime soon. The document first showed up on the forum Hacker News, and Facebook has confirmed its authenticity to VICE News.

“We can’t create a culture that says it cares about diversity and then excludes almost half the country because they back a political candidate,” Zuckerberg said in the memo. “There are many reasons a person might support Trump that do not involve racism, sexism, xenophobia, or accepting sexual assault.”

Zuckerberg’s memo comes as many high-profile Silicon Valley figures and companies are coming under fire for their association with Thiel, sparked by news from last weekend that Thiel is cutting a $1.25 million check to Trump’s campaign.

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Venerated startup incubator Y Combinator (which coincidentally operates Hacker News, where the leaked memo first surfaced) lists Thiel as a “part-time partner,” and YC majordomo Sam Altman has said he has no plans to cut ties with Thiel despite his revulsion toward Trump.

In turn, the high-profile advocacy group Project Include, which works with Silicon Valley companies on promoting corporate diversity and inclusion, has said it will no longer work with Y Combinator directly.

“Thiel’s actions are in direct conflict with our values at Project Include,” co-founder Ellen Pao said in a post on Medium. “Because of his continued connection to YC, we are compelled to break off our relationship with YC,” she said.

Pao famously sued her former employer, the venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caulfield and Byers, for sex discrimination.

Realistically, Zuckerberg and Facebook were never going to do anything but stick up for Thiel or say he’s his own man with his own opinions.

That was the company’s position over the summer when it was revealed that Thiel financed a lawsuit that forced Gawker Media into bankruptcy, and again when Thiel took a speaking slot at the Republican National Convention in July.

There’s another reason for Facebook’s reluctance to take a hard line with Trump: COO Sheryl Sandberg is a big-time Hillary supporter and a former Clinton administration official, and the social network has a strained relationship with conservative media.

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