Thiel Is a Man on an Island

Posted November 1, 2018 9:12 p.m. EDT

How often does a tweet, a policy action or a statement by President Donald Trump leave Peter Thiel, a vocal supporter, in disbelief?

“It doesn’t happen very often,” he said.

By many classic measures, Thiel has impeccable Silicon Valley credentials: a co-founder of PayPal, a Facebook board member since 2005, a partner at the venture capital firm Founders Fund, a sponsor of an ocean cleanup project and a Bitcoin investor.

But in many ways, he is a man on an island — and not just because he has New Zealand citizenship.

His frequent defense of Trump — a stance that Reed Hastings of Netflix referred to as “catastrophically bad judgment” — has set him apart from much of the tech industry.

At the DealBook conference in New York on Thursday, he acknowledged that the current political environment was “not healthy” but said that the country had been “polarized since the late ‘60s” and that Trump was “not the main cause.”

Thiel did allow that the conspiracy theories, misinformation and hateful language that have proved difficult to tamp out at Facebook and its subsidiary, Instagram, were “certainly worrisome.”

“It’s a complicated thing to get right,” he said.

And the president’s many unsupported, exaggerated or misleading comments about trade, immigration and even his own popularity?

“I tend to think that the inaccuracies President Trump tells are basically exaggerations of the truth,” Thiel said.

He also addressed his move to Los Angeles this year, saying Silicon Valley now “feels like a one-party state” marked by “the madness of crowds.”