Venture capitalist Peter Thiel’s last-minute donation of more than $1 million to the Donald Trump presidential campaign, reported this past weekend, has once again sparked debate about Silicon Valley’s politics. Critics of Thiel cited the racism and misogyny of the Trump campaign, as well as a rising worry that it is fueling paranoid conspiracies that could make his followers even more dangerous if he loses, as reasons Silicon Valley institutions aligned with Thiel should cut their ties.
Thiel serves as a “part-time partner” at startup incubator Y Combinator. Y Combinator president Sam Altman tweeted a long explanation of why he wouldn’t ask Thiel to leave the group on October 17, while also noting Thiel had no voting rights:
Altman cited the need to “talk to each other more, not less,” adding that “most people think roughly half the country is severely misguided.”
Not once, though, did he the mention growing number of accusations that Trump is a sexual predator. Nearly a dozen women have come forward to say Trump sexually assaulted them in recent weeks, after a video emerged of Trump claiming he regularly assaults women and gets away with it. The omission was not missed by critics of Thiel, Trump, or Y Combinator:
Thiel’s other ties in Silicon Valley are also being scrutinized, especially his Facebook board seat. The Trump presidential campaign has endorsed banning Muslims, building a wall on the border with Mexico, and more recently locking up political opponents and threatening journalists—a far cry from what Facebook is supposed to stand for, according to the company’s own mission statement:
Founded in 2004, Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them.
In June, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg voted to keep Thiel on his company’s board, despite Thiel’s funding of a lawsuit that destroyed Gawker Media. (Because of the way that Facebook’s voting rights are allocated, Zuckerberg himself controls about 60% of the vote.)
After Thiel’s Trump donation was made public, women in Silicon Valley were, once again, disgusted: