Peter Thiel says don’t listen to Donald Trump — just vote for him
Tech billionaire Peter Thiel, who has committed a total of $1.25 million to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, wants the media to stop taking Trump at his word.
“The media is always taking him literally instead of seriously,” Thiel said at a National Press Club event in Washington, D.C., on Monday. “I think a lot of voters for Trump take Trump seriously, not literally.”
It was Thiel’s first public, in-depth explanation of why he’s backing Trump since he spoke at the Republican National Convention in July.
Thiel thinks Trump voters correctly “sense that the U.S. is very badly off track.” And while Trump’s comments about women are “unacceptable,” he said, the country is “at such a crucial point that you have to overlook personal characteristics.
“A lot of successful people are too proud to admit it, but the truth is no matter how crazy this election seems, it is less crazy than the condition of our country,” Thiel said.
A Silicon Valley bigwig who co-founded PayPal almost two decades ago, Thiel drew intense media scrutiny this past summer for his Trump support and for financing the Hulk Hogan lawsuit that forced the bankruptcy of Gawker Media.
Prior to his public embrace of Trump, Thiel had a reputation as an eccentric right-winger; he’s funded radical libertarian “seasteading” projects and has reportedly explored using blood transfusions from young people for life-extension research. Previous Republican politicians Thiel has backed include Ron Paul and Mitt Romney.
At the Press Club event, Thiel acknowledged that his worldview is “schizophrenic” and that some his views are “fringe.” He said supporting Trump is the “first time in my life I’ve done something half the country believes in.”
Thiel described his support for Trump repeatedly in terms of grave concern about the state of America’s society and economy, using language similar to that in his convention speech, and he avoided or dismissed outright any concerns about Trump’s character affecting his fitness for the presidency.
In response to a question about the “Access Hollywood” video in which Trump brags about sexually assaulting women, Thiel said, “Nobody thinks his comments about women were acceptable.
“I agree they were clearly offensive and inappropriate,” Thiel said. “But I don’t think voters pull the lever to endorse a candidate’s flaws.”
Less than a week ago, Thiel apologized for a passage in a book he co-authored 21 years ago, “The Diversity Myth,” that said date rape isn’t a crime.
On the subject of funding Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker Media for publishing a Hogan sex tape, Thiel expressed no regrets whatsoever. Gawker lost the trial and was forced to declare bankruptcy. It was ultimately purchased at auction by Univision. Appeals are ongoing.
“If you’re a single-digit millionaire like Hulk Hogan, you have no effective access to our legal system,” Thiel said.
And although Monday’s event was ostensibly about Thiel’s support for Trump, some reporters thought it was actually more about Thiel. “It occurs to me that perhaps Peter Thiel himself wants to run for office,” Recode executive editor Kara Swisher wrote in a blog post.