Silicon Valley promised us flying cars. Instead, we get Peter Thiel speaking at the Republican National Convention.
A newly released list of speakers for next week’s convention in Cleveland includes Thiel, the litigious Silicon Valley billionaire investor, Facebook board member, and Donald Trump delegate, who, most recently, funded a revenge lawsuit against Gawker that forced the media company into bankruptcy.
In a statement to WIRED, Thiel explained why he wants to appear at the convention, an obligation even top Republicans have ducked this year. “Many people are uncertain in this election year,” he wrote, “but most Americans agree that our country is on the wrong track. I don’t think we can fix our problems unless we can talk about them frankly.”
In any other election year, Thiel’s presence at the convention wouldn’t be all that surprising.
But the fact that Trump is this year’s presumptive Republican nominee makes Thiel’s support curious. On everything from trade to immigration to government data collection, Trump’s policies stand in direct opposition to the ones laid out by major industry groups like the Internet Association and TechNet.
More on Thiel
Today, a large group of tech leaders, including Twitter co-founder Ev Williams, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, investor Vinod Khosla, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, and more than 100 others published an open letter repudiating Trump, not just for his tech policies, but for his broader campaign.
“He campaigns on anger, bigotry, fear of new ideas and new people, and a fundamental belief that America is weak and in decline,” the letter reads. “We have listened to Donald Trump over the past year and we have concluded: Trump would be a disaster for innovation.”1
Thiel’s decision to back Trump is also unique given the new RNC platform’s stance on LGBT issues. Thiel is openly gay and supports gay marriage, but this year’s RNC platform includes a plank that supports conversion therapy for LGBT people and promotes states’ rights to decide which bathrooms transgender people can use. When this so-called “bathroom bill” was introduced in North Carolina, the CEO of PayPal, the company Thiel co-founded, pulled plans to expand operations in that state.
Suffice it to say, as a member of the tech industry elite, Thiel is breaking ranks—even with himself. Back in 2014, in an interview with the conservative outlet The Daily Caller, Thiel waxed poetic about the future of democracy and said that Donald Trump, who had long toyed with a presidential bid, was “sort of symptomatic of everything that is wrong with New York City.”
Of course, he won’t be the only convention speaker who’s come out against Trump in the past. The list also includes former competitors Ted Cruz and Scott Walker, as well as Republican party leaders Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan.
Oh, and PS: Peter Thiel rocks.
1. Update: 11:06 am ET 07/14/16 This story has been updated to include the open letter from tech industry leaders.