Peter Thiel Makes History at RNC: "I Am Proud to Be Gay"
The Facebook boardmember received a standing ovation at the Republican National Convention on Thursday.
Billionaire investor Peter Thiel announced that he was proud to be gay during a speech at the Republican National Convention on Thursday evening.
The PayPal co-founder used his short time on stage to stump for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in a speech that focused primarily on the message of creating a "bright future" for America and its economy. But the statements that got the biggest response were his comments about being gay. "I'm proud to be gay. I'm proud to be a Republican. But most of all I'm proud to be an American," he said, to a standing ovation from many in the room.
Thiel, who recently revealed himself to be the backer of Hulk Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker Media, was a surprising choice for the RNC. Openly gay and a libertarian, he's not a name widely known outside of Silicon Valley circles, let alone among the GOP. But Thiel was given a prime spot on Thursday night's lineup, just a few speakers ahead of Trump, and the crowd inside FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland gave him a warm reception.
His speech touched on the divide between the wealth that has accrued in Silicon Valley and the economy across the country. "Silicon Valley is a small place," he noted. "Drive out to Sacramento or even across the bridge to Oakland and you won't see the same prosperity." He went on to explain that the "economy is broken" and to describe that his German parents immigrated to America and first settled in Cleveland before moving West.
He ended his speech by urging people to vote for Trump.
The one message that appeared to fall flat inside the stadium was a comment about the transgender bathroom bills that have passed in some states. "When I was a kid, the great debate was how to defeat the Soviet Union and we won," he said. "Now we are told that the great debate is about w ho gets to use which bathroom. This is a distraction from our real problems. Who cares."
Thiel is the first openly gay man to speak at the Republican National Convention since 2000. When George W. Bush was nominated for the first time, then-Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona spoke in Philadelphia, but he steered clear of talking about his sexuality.
Thiel's personal actions have caused some in Silicon Valley to question his powerful position as a Facebook board member. But the company has brushed aside critics, saying that his funding of the Hogan lawsuit was outside of his role at the company. He was re-elected to the board earlier this year, and the company released a statement that his speech at the RNC was personal and not "on behalf of Facebook or to represent our views."
Reactions were mixed on social media after Thiel's speech, especially from his colleagues in Silicon Valley. Here are some of the reactions from the media and tech executives who watched the speech:
This is really not Peter’s best venue.— John Lilly (@johnolilly) July 22, 2016
Peter Thiel sure looked like he was on drugs while speaking at the Republican convention.— Michael Arrington (@arrington) July 22, 2016
Peter was awkward at first, but he is picking up steam with the focus on what matters angle— jason (@Jason) July 22, 2016
Thiel just delivered the first tech speech in the last year that didn't have an AI bot launch in it.— Aaron Levie (@levie) July 22, 2016
Peter Thiel considered all the standard coming out venues: The Advocate, People Magazine, the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.— Ronan Farrow (@RonanFarrow) July 22, 2016