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Entreprenuer and investor Peter Thiel spoke earlier today about why he supports Donald Trump, mostly citing his status as an outsider, and the fact that he has no ties to what has ailed Washington over the last two decades.
Part of the reason Thiel felt the need to give that speech is the controversy that has surrounded his support of Trump's bid for the presidency. Specifically his donation of $1.25 million to the Trump campaign, which set off a firestorm of controversy.
After his speech, Thiel sat down on stage for a question and answer session, in which he addressed how Silicon Valley has reacted to his support of Trump, and why he decided to give that donation.
Thiel was questioned about how his support has affected his relationships in Silicon Valley
"It certainly has generated a significant amount of discussion. I've gotten a lot of pushback from people, to say the least, but I think my friendships, close working business relationships, I think all of those are very well in tact," he said.
In terms of what he learned about Silicon Valley's "appetite for political difference," Thiel said that he had no idea that being a Trump supporter would be so controversial.
"It's more polarized than I realized. I thought of Silicon Valley as fairly a liberal, fairly Democratic place. It overwhelmingly backed Obama in 2008, but I didn't think that there was going to be this sort of visceral reaction," he said.
While most of the larger tech companies haven't said that someone shouldn't back Trump, Thiel said it surprised him that anyone would say that.
"There are positions that are beyond the pale, there are extreme fringe views. I've often supported fringe views in life extension, or fringe views in Seasteading, which are very minority views. This is the first time I've done something that's actually conventional. It didn't feel contrarian. It's the first time I've done something big in my life that was just what half the country believed in. And it's been the most controversial thing ever, so that really surprised me."
It would be even crazier, he said, if his companies started getting blowback for his views.
"I'm not Trump. The founders of the companies I invest in are not me. Their employees are not the founders, and if you sort of conflate two or three or four groups of people like this, that's a really crazy thing to do," he said. "If you hold people who responsible who are two degrees or three degrees separation, that way lies insanity."
Thiel's controversial statements
As Thiel said above, he does have some controversial views, and has had some inflammatory things over the years.
For example, he once compared the current education system to the Catholic Church in the 16th century,
"It has become a very corrupt institution. It was charging more and more for indulgences. People thought they could only get saved by going to the Catholic church, just like people today believe that salvation involves getting a college diploma," he said.
Maybe his most controversial comments were regarding women and their right to vote.
"Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women — two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians — have rendered the notion of 'capitalist democracy' into an oxymoron," he wrote in an blog post in 2009.
"It would be absurd to suggest that women’s votes will be taken away or that this would solve the political problems that vex us. While I don’t think any class of people should be disenfranchised, I have little hope that voting will make things better," he later clarified.
Thiel is right: saying that giving women the right to vote hurt democracy? That's controversial. Supporting a candidate for President? That's exactly what everyone else does.
(Image source: Saul Loeb, AFP/Getty Images)