Photo: Getty Images
Last week, Gizmodo noted Peter Thiel’s strange radio silence regarding the theatrical implosion of Donald Trump, whom the Silicon Valley billionaire and Facebook board member stumped for at the Republican National Convention. According to the New York Times, however, Thiel is nowhere close to abandoning his candidate. Citing “a person close to the investor,” the paper reported on Saturday that Thiel “will give $1.25 million through a combination of super PAC donations and funds given directly to [Trump’s] campaign.”
The new donation marks a shift in Thiel’s method of supporting the Republican nominee; before yesterday, he had publicly endorsed but never actually bankrolled Trump’s campaign. In late August, a spokesperson for Thiel told the Wall Street Journal that he had no plans to donate any money to the campaign or a pro-Trump political action committee. The new injection of cash also suggests Thiel regards Trump’s growing number of sexual harassment scandals as little more than a distraction. “Thiel … apparently is unfazed by the storm around the candidate in the last week following the broadcasting of lewd conversations recorded by the syndicated program Access Hollywood,” the Times reported.
This suggests, of course, that Thiel is more than willing to tolerate Trump’s behavior toward women—such as bragging about groping them without consent, branding his accusers as liars, and sliming the reporters who cover the accusations. (“Reporters at the New York Times, they’re not journalists,” Trump told supporters in North Carolina. “They’re corporate lobbyists for Carlos Slim and for Hillary Clinton.”) Then again, Thiel’s own politics may have inspired some sympathy for Trump’s predicament. In a 2009 essay, Thiel observed that women’s suffrage was incompatible with capitalist democracy.
Thiel’s loyalty to Trump is particularly noteworthy given the billionaire’s hollow justification for funding a series of lawsuits to bring down Gawker: “The site routinely published thinly sourced, nasty articles that attacked and mocked people.” (His definition of “people,” Thiel has made clear, includes his own friends in the upper echelons of Silicon Valley’s investor class.)
In the world of political fundraising, $1.25 million is not exactly a game-changing sum, and will do little to reverse Hillary Clinton’s overwhelming financial advantage over her opponent. And while Thiel has much more than $1.25 million to dole out—his net worth hovers around $2.7 billion—he also has other things to spend his money on, like seasteading or experimental blood transfusions. Compared to his other hobbies, Donald Trump’s campaign seems like a rather small concern. For example: To put Gawker Media out of business, Forbes reported earlier this year, Thiel spent somewhere around $10 million.