Peter Thiel, the billionaire PayPal co-founder, dismissed what he called the distraction of “fake culture wars,” telling the Republican National Convention on Thursday that he is “proud to be gay” and to support Donald Trump.
“I don’t pretend to agree with every plank in our party’s platform,” Thiel said. “But fake culture wars only distract us from our economic decline. And nobody in this race is being honest about it except Donald Trump.”
The crowd applauded when he said, “I am proud to be gay,” then erupted when he said, “I am proud to be a Republican.”
Speaking on the closing night of the Republican National Convention, Thiel said that when he was a child, Americans concerned themselves with issues of significance, not “who gets to use which bathroom.”
“This is a distraction from our real problems,” he said. “Who cares?”
Thiel was given a relatively prominent speaking spot on the night that Trump is accepting the Republican Party’s nomination for president.
Trump, a New York businessman, is attempting to expand his appeal in the general election, and Thiel, 48, is representative of two groups that have been critical of his campaign: Silicon Valley executives and gay people. The party has adopted a platform that continues to oppose gay marriage, and many gay rights activists have sharply criticized the GOP as it met in Cleveland.
Lamenting the unevenness of the economic recovery, Thiel said that in Silicon Valley, it is “hard to see where America has gone wrong.” His industry, he said, has “made a lot of money.”
“But Silicon Valley is a small place,” he said. “Drive out to Sacramento, or even across the bridge to Oakland, and you won’t see the same prosperity.”
Thiel donated to Republican causes in recent years, including Republican Meg Whitman in her failed gubernatorial bid in 2010.
But he is also one of Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s earliest and biggest donors. Last year, Thiel gave the Democratic former mayor of San Francisco – a longtime champion of gay rights – $56,400 for his gubernatorial run in 2018.
California Republicans seized on Thiel’s support for Trump. Tim Clark, Trump’s California political director, put a photograph of Thiel’s seat in the California delegation on Twitter, saying, “What other states can casually lay a name tag like this on a Trump delegate seat?”