The 48-year-old co-founder of PayPal was the first openly gay person to speak proudly about his sexual orientation on the RNC stage.
“I am proud to be gay. I am proud to be a Republican. But most of all, I am proud to be an American.”
The crowd inside Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena rose to its feet and to applaud him and cheer, “USA! USA!”
He used the opportunity to call on the GOP to move forward on issues concerning the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. This after the party voted to affirm its long-held stance against same-sex marriage and many red states proposed or adopted legislation against allowing transgender individuals to use the public restroom that corresponds with their gender identity.
“Now, we are told the great debate is about who gets to use which bathrooms. This is a distraction from our real problems. Who cares?” he said. “I don’t pretend to agree with every plank in this party’s platform, but fake culture wars only distract us from our economic decline.”
Reaction to Thiel’s speech from Republicans at the convention may have been positive, but there was a much different response from some on social media.
Why is Thiel supporting Trump?
“I’m not a politician and neither is Donald Trump,” Thiel told the crowd at Cleveland, where he was raised, before touting his support for several points from Trump’s platform.
His PayPal co-founder Max Levchin said in June he was baffled by Thiel’s support for Trump:
The German-American venture capitalist, like the presidential candidate he endorsed, is a controversial figure. The Intercept described him as “so dangerous and fascinating you have to watch him.”
Politically, Thiel’s reported to be a libertarian. As Bloomberg reported, he’s offside of what many of the Republican Party’s loudest voices, aside from Trump’s very loud voice, are against.
“Thiel is not only gay, he’s a pro-marijuana immigrant in a party that has long seemed hostile to all those things,” Bloomberg reported.
NBC reported he is “also vehemently opposed to any kind of government regulation.”
But he’s has leaned to the right politically since his undergraduate years at Stanford University — he also went to Stanford Law School — where he started the conservative Stanford Review and he later co-authored a book that was critical of multiculturalism, called The Diversity Myth: ‘Multiculturalism’ and the Politics of Intolerance at Stanford.
Thiel invested in companies before they were cool
Thiel, whom The Associated Press reported is worth $2.7 billion, put $500,000 in Facebook in its early days and he remains on the company’s board to this day.
Facebook has distanced itself from Thiel’s appearance at the RNC. “He is not attending on behalf of Facebook or to represent our views,” a spokesperson told the Washington Post.
Thiel put money in a handful of other companies that have grown to become billion-dollar businesses themselves., companies like the music streaming service Spotify, the ride-share company Lyft, vacation home rental giant Airbnb, restaurant review website Yelp and Tesla founder Elon Musk’s space venture SpaceX.
Thiel vs. Gawker
Thiel’s sexual orientation has something to do with the controversy that surrounds him. In 2007, the website Gawker revealed Thiel is gay and he’s had a bone to pick with them ever since.
He once described the now-defunct Valleywag, a Gawker Media off-shoot that covered Silicon Valley gossip between 2006 and 2015, as the “equivalent of al Qaeda”
Fast forward to 2016: Thiel more-or-less brought down Gawker Media by secretly backing wrestler Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against the company after it published a video of him having sex with his then-best friend’s wife.
Forbes reported Thiel paid $10 million dollars in legal fees for Hogan’s case. If his goal was retribution, he got it. Gawker lost the case and wound up being ordered to pay Hogan $140 million in damages for invasion of privacy, driving Gawker Media into bankruptcy protection and forcing founder Nick Denton to put the company up for sale.
But he later told the New York Times the lawsuit was “less about revenge and more about specific deterrence.”
“I saw Gawker pioneer a unique and incredibly damaging way of getting attention by bullying people even when there was no connection with the public interest.”
Gawker was quick to take a jab at Thiel after his speech, referring to him as a “clammy billionaire.”