Peter Thiel on Trump Tech Summit, "Apocalyptic" Election and LGBTQ Rights: "Maybe I Should Be Worried, but I’m Not"
The Trump adviser, now on the president-elect's transition team, also calls his views "dated but futuristic."
Peter Thiel, the billionaire PayPal co-founder now serving on Donald Trump's transition team, said that he still stands behind the president-elect, despite critics asking him how he can support a team with a questionable history on gay rights: "You know, maybe I should be worried, but I’m not that worried about it."
In an interview with The New York Times, Thiel, who gained notoriety for funding Hulk Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker, said that, while his critics are worried Trump will go too far, he was more inclined to think that "maybe Trump is going to change everything way too little." "That seems like the much more plausible risk to me," he added.
Thiel was one of the key advisers on Trump's transition team that organized a summit of tech executives at Trump Tower in December, when Apple's Tim Cook, Alphabet's Larry Page, Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Tesla's Elon Musk and more convened to talk innovation in Silicon Valley.
Thiel said it wasn't easy to gather the executives in one room. “I think, early on, everybody was worried that they would be the only person to show up,” he said, adding, "I think the bigger tech companies all wanted to get a little bit off the ledge that they had gotten on."
"Normally, if you’re a CEO of a big company, you tend to be somewhat apolitical or politically pretty bland. But this year, it was this competition for who could be more anti-Trump," said Thiel. "Somehow, I think Silicon Valley got even more spun up than Manhattan. There were hedge-fund people I spoke to about a week after the election. They hadn’t supported Trump. But all of a sudden, they sort of changed their minds."
Thiel added that, in his mind, the release of the Access Hollywood hot-mic tapes with Billy Bush weren't a deal breaker for his supporting Trump. "On the one hand, the tape was clearly offensive and inappropriate," he said. "At the same time, I worry there’s a part of Silicon Valley that is hyper-politically correct about sex."
Thiel spoke about feeling like an outcast in Silicon Valley after donating more than $1 million to the Trump campaign, which he said he avoided for a while. "I didn’t give him any money for a long time because I didn’t think it mattered, and then the campaign asked me to," he explained. Critics have questioned his support for Trump, as he's an openly gay man who immigrated from Frankfurt as a child, amid Trump's campaign promises of border walls and hate speech.
“I think Trump is very good on gay rights,” said Thiel. “I don’t think he will reverse anything. I would obviously be concerned if I thought otherwise.” On Vice President-elect Mike Pence's history with the gay community, he added, "You know, maybe I should be worried, but I’m not that worried about it."
He defended his support for the Trump White House, saying, "Even if there are aspects of Trump that are retro and that seem to be going back to the past, I think a lot of people want to go back to a past that was futuristic — The Jetsons, Star Trek. They’re dated but futuristic."
As far as the election, Thiel felt the campaign leading up to Nov. 8 had an "apocalyptic feel" to it: "There was a way in which Trump was funny, so you could be apocalyptic and funny at the same time. It’s a strange combination, but it’s somehow very powerful psychologically."