Zenefits CEO David Sacks apologizes for parts of 1996 book he co-wrote with Peter Thiel that called date rape ‘belated regret’


It also took sharp aim at multiculturalism at Stanford University

David Sacks, the CEO of Zenefits, has just spent the last year cleaning up messy regulatory controversies at his company, culminating in the successful launch of a new version of the human resources app platform last week.

But today, the longtime entrepreneur is apologizing for another uglier controversy from 20 years ago, related to a book he co-authored with high-profile investor Peter Thiel called “The Diversity Myth: Multiculturalism and Political Intolerance on Campus.” It was related to their time as students at Stanford University.

In it, the pair — who both later went onto found PayPal and have each been involved in many successful startups — wrote that date rape was actually more akin to “seductions that were later regretted.” They also noted that efforts to stop it was largely due to a hatred of men.

An article in the Guardian today surfaced the book’s existence again, focusing largely on the perpetually controversial Thiel. This year alone, the investor and Facebook board member has sued online media company Gawker out of existence, given a major address in support of presidential candidate Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention and just handed him $1.25 million immediately after allegations of Trump’s sexual misconduct had surfaced.

But I opted instead to ping Sacks, with whom I have spent a fair amount of time lately talking about Zenefits and who will also be a speaker at the upcoming Code Enterprise conference in November. I noted to him in an email that this did not sound anything like the person I had been dealing with for a while now.

Sacks agreed. “You’re right — this is college journalism written over 20 years ago. It does not represent who I am or what I believe today. I’m embarrassed by some of my former views and regret writing them.”

He did not specify which of them he regretted, although I was asking specifically about the topics covered in the Guardian piece.

That includes an especially a truly disturbing section — and it still so two decades later — in which the pair called out the university’s sexual assault policy.

“But since a multicultural rape charge may indicate nothing more than belated regret, a woman might ‘realize’ that she had been ‘raped’ the next day or even many days later. Under these circumstances, it is unclear who should be held responsible. If the alcohol made both of them do it, then why should the woman’s consent be obviated any more than the man’s? Why is all blame placed on the man?”

The book also took aim at a student who claimed she had been raped while intoxicated (“Although [the alleged perpetrator] was clearly guilty of serving alcohol to an underage woman and taking advantage of her resulting lack of judgement, there was no sexual assault.”)

And it also criticized Stanford for a number of cultural changes aimed at improving campus life for minorities, gay and lesbians and women. The pair tried to be geek-clever, noting: “Real diversity requires a diversity of ideas, not simply a bunch of like-minded activists who resemble the bar scene from Star Wars.”

(My opinion: That was an epic bar scene.)

Women also got attacked by Thiel and Sacks when it came to curriculum choices. And they also took issue with people of color talking about racism as it had “become a major cause of debate and friction.”

Sacks said today he regrets some of this and he has certainly shifted his politics far from Thiel’s. According to Federal Election Commission, while he was a supporter of GOP candidate Mitt Romney in 2012 with a $50,000 donation, Sacks has given to a political action committee supporting Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton close to $70,000 in this cycle.

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