Tech and politics: Peter Thiel, David Sacks apologize for rape comments in book

Writing a book and characterizing date rape as “belated regret” means having to say you’re sorry.

That’s what billionaire entrepreneur Peter Thiel and Zenefits CEO David Sacks have found out after Thiel’s support of Donald Trump has put a renewed spotlight on “The Diversity Myth,” a book they co-wrote and published two decades ago.

Their apologies come as Silicon Valley grapples with Thiel’s ties to the controversial and divisive presidential candidacy of Trump.

Drawing from their time at Stanford University, Thiel and Sacks, both members of the PayPal Mafia, in their book slammed multiculturalism, diversity, gender studies and political correctness. They also wrote the following about Stanford’s policy on sexual assault:

But since a multicultural rape charge may indicate nothing more than belated regret, a woman might ‘realize’ that she had been ‘raped’ the next day or even many days later. Under these circumstances, it is unclear who should be held responsible. If the alcohol made both of them do it, then why should the woman’s consent be obviated any more than the man’s? Why is all blame placed on the man?

The excerpt was highlighted in a piece in the Guardian last week by reporter Julia Carrie Wong, who like many of us in the tech news world has been covering Thiel’s support of Republican presidential candidate Trump — who himself has slammed diversity and political correctness. Trump also has been accused of sexual assault or inappropriate sexual contact by nearly a dozen women in the past couple of weeks.

“More than two decades ago, I co-wrote a book with several insensitive, crudely argued statements,” Thiel said in a statement to Forbes on Monday. “As I’ve said before, I wish I’d never written those things. I’m sorry for it. Rape in all forms is a crime. I regret writing passages that have been taken to suggest otherwise.” (Thiel also expressed regret about some parts of his book in a 2011 New Yorker profile.)

Sacks told Recode: “This is college journalism written over 20 years ago. It does not represent who I am or what I believe today. I’m embarrassed by some of my former views and regret writing them.” Recode points out that Sacks has given to a political action committee that supports Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in this election cycle.

Thiel, the billionaire Silicon Valley entrepreneur and investor who served as a California delegate for Trump and spoke at the Republican National Convention over the summer, recently reiterated his support: He is giving $1.25 million to Trump’s campaign, the New York Times reported on Oct. 15.

The donation, which became public soon after the first of the sexual assault accusations against Trump began to trickle in, has sparked some soul-searching in the valley. After all, it’s home to tech executives who have denounced Trump in a variety of ways, including by donating big to Clinton. In addition, tech companies have gone all in on diversity, with some of them going public with their goals to boost the numbers of women and minorities in their workplaces. It’s the kind of “political correctness” that Trump rails against.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Sam Altman of Y Combinator have defended Thiel’s right to support Trump, but Zuckerberg’s leaked post was notable in both what it said and what it didn’t say about Thiel, who sits on Facebook’s board:

“There are many reasons a person might support Trump that do not involve racism, sexism, xenophobia or accepting sexual assault,” Zuckerberg wrote.

Meanwhile, at least one investor who refused to sever ties with Thiel has been rejected by Backstage Capital, Bloomberg reported Monday. And Ellen Pao said immediately after Thiel’s donation was reported that her diversity-focused group, Project Include, would break off its relationship with Y Combinator, where Thiel is a part-time partner.

During Thiel’s speech at the RNC, he said he doesn’t “pretend to agree with every plank in our party’s platform.” Do his present-day views align with those of Trump, who has offended groups such as Mexican and Muslim immigrants, women, war veterans and others? We might found out soon. Thiel is set to give a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on the morning of Oct. 31, a spokesman confirmed today.


Photo: Peter Thiel delivers a speech at the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)


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