It was a lot.
Billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel is a vocal and financial supporter of Donald Trump; he is also the man who helped bankrupt Gawker media. In the tech and media worlds, that essentially makes him Public Enemy No. 1.
On Monday Thiel set out to defend himself. At an hour-long press event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Thiel answered a bunch of questions about everything from his million dollar donation to Trump’s campaign to his multi-million dollar donation to Hulk Hogan’s lawyers.
Thiel said a lot, so we’ve pulled out some of his more interesting quotes here. We’re still sifting through everything, and will add more as we go.
On whether or not his support of Trump has hurt his business:
“Not in any meaningful way. … It certainly has generated a tremendous 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 those are very well intact.”
On Silicon Valley’s disconnect with the rest of the country:
“The story people in Silicon Valley always want to tell is the one in which their specific success as individuals and as companies gets conflated with a story of general success and general progress in the United States. ‘So we’re doing well, therefore our whole civilization is doing well, everybody’s doing well, the whole country’s taken to the next level.’ That’s the narrative people love to tell — specific success linked to general success. I think the truth has been one of more specific success, but more general failure.”
On his $1.25 million donation to Donald Trump, which came shortly after Trump faced backlash for a tape in which he admitted to grabbing women inappropriately:
“I think the tape was in extremely poor taste, extremely inappropriate. I didn’t even think as much about the donation as I should have. My general perspective on this year was that money actually didn’t matter that much. The candidates who raised the most money on the presidential level did incredibly badly. I didn’t even think that Trump needed my money. He hadn’t raised that much money, they didn’t ask me for money, I hadn’t donated. So when they asked me I wasn’t sure they needed it, but I thought I’d go ahead and write them a check. But I didn’t think that much of this connection. Of course, I didn’t think anybody would think that you would donate to a candidate because of the worst thing they’ve done. You support candidates normally because of the things you like about them, not the things you dislike.”
On whether or not Trump would try and repeal LGBT rights if elected President:
“I have not had conversations with Mr. Trump on that specific subject. I do think he represents a sea change from the Republican party of [George W.] Bush. You just look at the way Bush was speaking about gay marriage at every single campaign event in the 2004 election. Everything [Trump’s] indicated is that he’d be quite expansive on gay rights.”
On whether Thiel supports a ban on Muslims coming to the U.S., a stance Trump has campaigned on:
“I don’t support a religious test. I certainly don’t support the specific language Trump has used in every instance. I think one thing that should be distinguished here is that the media always is taking Trump literally. It never takes him seriously, but it always takes him literally. I think a lot of the voters who vote for Trump take Trump seriously but not literally. So when they hear things like the Muslim comment, or the wall comment, or things like that, the question is not, ‘are we going to build a wall like the Great Wall of China?’ or ‘How exactly are you going to enforce these tests?’ What they hear is ‘we’re going to have a saner, more sensible immigration policy.’”
On why he funded Hulk Hogan’s sex tape lawsuit against Gawker, and why he kept it private:
“I got involved over a number of years and it was one of these things once you got involved, you started to believe in the justice of the case more and more because there were so many different people you interacted with who had been destroyed, in most cases it was not super prominent people, or super wealthy people. It was people who could not afford to do anything. And one of the striking things was that if you’re middle class, if you’re upper middle class, if you’re a single digit millionaire like Hulk Hogan, you have no effective access to our legal system. It costs too much. This was the modus operandi of Gawker in large part, to go after people who had no chance of fighting back. … My judgement was Mr. Hogan deserved to have his day in court.”
On whether or not he set a dangerous precedent by suing Gawker media into bankruptcy:
“I don’t think so. Let’s start with the facts of the case. It involved a sex tape. If you make a sex tape of someone with their permission, you are a pornographer. If you make a sex tape without their permission, we were told now, you are a journalist. I would submit that as an insult to all journalists. This is not about the first amendment, it is about the most egregious violation of privacy imaginable.”
On whether or not wealthy, powerful people should be able to sue a media organization for a story they disagree with:
“Wealthy people shouldn’t do that. I think if they try they won’t succeed. Gawker was a pretty flimsy business. It was a bad business, it didn’t make that much money. They could have withstood all the lawsuits. They lost because of the enormous verdict that came in against them. That’s why they lost at the end of the day … I was very careful in the Hulk Hogan litigation in picking a lawsuit where the fight was over privacy. We did not even bring a libel action because that was sort of the way I wanted to make clear in the Hogan case that it was not about the media more generally.”
On whether or not he’s currently suing any other media organizations:
“I’ve been involved in the Gawker case and nothing else.”