Gay tech billionaire Peter Thiel, a once-ardent supporter of former President Donald Trump, says he’s already experiencing backlash for refusing to donate large sums of money to Trump’s 2024 presidential bid.
Thiel, who co-founded online payments company PayPal and data analytics company Palantir, told The Atlantic that he would no longer be financially supporting Trump — or any other candidate — in 2024, taking a step back from involvement in the political realm.
A source close to Thiel told Reuters in April that Thiel, a father of two children who is married to businessman Matt Danzeisen, thought Republicans were making a mistake by emphasizing culture-war issues rather than U.S. technical innovation and the need to compete with China.
In 2022, Thiel donated more than $10 million each to two Trump-aligned U.S. Senate candidates — former venture capitalist and Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance, who represents Ohio, and former Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters. He says several Republican candidates have been “pestering me like crazy” to donate, including Trump himself.
Thiel claims he tried to duck Trump’s calls for a while, but the former president got him on the phone last April. During that phone call, Trump reminded Thiel of his generous donations to Vance and Masters, and expected to receive a similarly-sized donation.
After Thiel refused to donate, Trump reportedly told him he was “very sad, very sad to hear that.” But upon speaking to Masters at a later time, Thiel heard that Trump had referred to him as a “fucking scumbag.”
Thiel, who donated $1.25 million to candidate Trump during the 2016 cycle, told the magazine he had hoped that Trump’s election would force a national reckoning that someone needed to tear things down before the country could rebuild.
“Voting for Trump was like a not very articulate scream for help,” he said.
But he soon found out that the Trump administration was not delivering the change he expected.
“There are a lot of things I got wrong,” he said. “It was crazier than I thought. It was more dangerous than I thought. They couldn’t get the most basic pieces of government to work. So that was — I think that part was maybe worse than even my low expectations.”
Thiel had previously said, in 2018, that Trump’s first year in office did not live up to his expectations but asserted that Trump was “still better than Hillary Clinton or the Republican zombies.” He claims to have stepped away from Trump’s re-election campaign in 2020, which ultimately ended in the former president’s loss to now-President Joe Biden.
He also said he doesn’t believe that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, adding that Trump’s attempts to overturn the results were “not helpful,” reports The Hill.
Yet despite his insistence on financial neutrality for this upcoming election cycle, Thiel says he still doesn’t consider himself a “Never Trumper” or opposed to the former president’s economic agenda.
When he endorsed Trump in 2016, Thiel largely downplayed the controversy over the Republican Party’s official platform and some of its anti-LGBTQ stances, which led to behind-the scenes fights between delegates over which position to include.
“I am proud to be gay. But most of all I am proud to be an American,” Thiel said in his speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention. “I don’t pretend to agree with every plank in our party’s platform, but fake culture wars only distract us from our economic decline, and nobody in this race is being honest about it except Donald Trump.”
These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!