SAN FRANCISCO — Peter Thiel, who on Monday plans to defend his support of Donald Trump, says he was surprised by Silicon Valley's sharp reaction to the $1.25 million donation he made to the Republican presidential candidate's campaign.
Some have called for Thiel, who served as a delegate for Trump and spoke at the Republican National Convention, to be dropped from the board of directors of Silicon Valley incubator Y Combinator and of giant social network Facebook.
“I was surprised by the intensity,” Thiel, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, told The New York Times. “This is one of the few times I was involved in something that was not a fringe effort but was mainstream. Millions of people are backing Trump. I did not appreciate quite how polarizing the election would be in Silicon Valley and elsewhere.”
Thiel says he's able to separate Trump's political positions from his behavior..
“The millions of people who vote for Trump are not doing it because of the worst things he said or did,” Thiel said. “That’s ridiculous. The Americans who are voting for Trump are doing it because they judge the situation of the country to be urgent. We’re at such a crucial point that you have to overlook personal characteristics.”
Thiel plans to defend his support of Trump on Monday in a speech and question-and-answer session at the National Press Club in Washington.
The choice of venue has raised eyebrows since Thiel secretly funded the lawsuit that destroyed gossip website Gawker.
“Ideally, this will have the give-and-take of debate,” Thiel said. “Obviously, I’ll get some very tough questions about Trump. But I thought the best way to advance the discussion was not to have some completely contrived format. The future of this country depends on us engaging with the tough questions.”
Thiel, a libertarian known for his audacious and sometimes controversial ideas, made his billions by co-founding PayPal. At this summer's Republican National Convention, Thiel was the lone tech billionaire to take the podium, where he spoke about being conservative and homosexual.
Thiel was in the news earlier this year when he came forward as the main financial backer of Hulk Hogan in the wrestler's lawsuit against Gawker Media, which had posted a video of Hogan having sex. Hogan's successful suit against Gawker — which had earlier outed Thiel as gay — bankrupted the media company.