Peter Thiel, a very high-profile tech investor, has started to face some backlash about reportedly planning to donate $1.25 million in support of the Trump campaign.
This has put a lot in the tech community in a very precarious situation. Thiel currently sits of Facebook’s board, and the tech community is largely outspoken against Donald Trump. However, many executives — including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and YC partner Sam Altman — have to reconcile Thiel’s support and their association with him. The response, largely, has been that personal views and stances aren’t a reason to push Thiel away.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos essentially re-iterated that today. Asked what he would do if Thiel were on Amazon’s board on stage at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit, Bezos said, “it’s way too divisive to say if you have an opinion, you can’t sit on my board. That makes no sense.”
Facebook, thus far, has stood by keeping Thiel on the company’s board. “I know there are strong views on the election this year both in the US and around the world,” Zuckerberg said in a post on Facebook. “We see them play out on Facebook every day. Our community will be stronger for all our differences — not only in areas like race and gender, but also in areas like political ideology and religion.”
Still, Bezos’ difficult answer when he is quite clearly at odds with Thiel’s opinions really just demonstrates the overall problem that the tech industry faces with regards to Thiel. He has invested in a huge swath of technology companies in addition to his deep ties with the industry in general. But Thiel was also involved in a lawsuit that led to the bankruptcy and acquisition of Gawker’s assets (minus Gawker itself).
“To try and chill the media and sort of threaten retribution and retaliation, which is what [Trump has] done in a number of cases, it just isn’t appropriate,” Bezos said.
Bezos still went after Trump very aggressively: “It’s inappropriate for a presidential candidate to erode [democracy] around the edges,” he said. “They should be trying to burnish it instead of erode it. When you look at the pattern of things, it is also saying that he may not give a graceful concession speech, that erodes our democracy around the edges. Saying he might lock up his opponent if he wins erodes democracy around the edges.”
In terms of Thiel’s opinions, Bezos basically just made the argument that he’s probably wrong. “Peter Thiel is a contrarian, first and foremost, and you just have to remember that contrarians are usually wrong. conventional wisdom is usually right,” Bezos said.