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What Peter Thiel is Really Doing at the RNC

PayPal Inc. Co-Founder Peter Thiel InterviewPayPal Inc. Co-Founder Peter Thiel Interview
Peter Thiel co-founded Palantir Technologies in 2004.Photograph by David Paul Morris—Bloomberg via Getty Images

What the hell is Peter Thiel thinking?

That’s the question I keep hearing from his Silicon Valley friends and colleagues, who don’t understand why the staunch libertarian would be endorsing a presidential candidate like Donald Trump, let alone speaking on his behalf at the Republican National Convention. Particularly in a year when Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson might actually poll high enough to make the main debate stage.

At the same time, political folks in Cleveland don’t understand why the GOP is giving some of its precious primetime to a venture capitalist who is little known outside of technology and media corridors.

Regarding the first mystery, there are all sorts of theories. One is that Thiel simply identifies with a fellow wealthy iconoclast, egged on by animosity toward Hillary Clinton. Another is that he wants to use his RNC speech to scold Republicans for their anti-gay platform planks and perhaps will rebel by endorsing Johnson from the stage. My favorite comes from Jeff Bercovici, who points out that Thiel has said that he “no longer believes freedom and democracy are compatible,” and thinks Trump is the best vehicle to destroy America’s founding political system.

For Trump and Republicans, associating with a Facebook board member like Thiel is an attempt to grab some cool ― and establish a millennial focus that will be further amplified later on Thursday by Ivanka Trump.

But I’ve got an alternate theory…

Thiel isn’t here to give a speech at all. He’s here to make an introduction. Not of Donald Trump, but of…


Yup. That’s right. I’m taking long odds that Peter Thiel is at the RNC to warm the crowd up for Hulk Hogan.

Think about it: For starters, we know they’re at least indirect pals. Thiel recently was revealed to be the financial muscle behind Hogan’s massive (and successful) lawsuit against Gawker, which had published a sex video of Hogan and his former best friend’s wife. Second, Hogan is a known Trump supporter, saying last summer that he wanted to be the candidate’s running mate.

Finally, and most importantly, the RNC crowd in Cleveland would go nuts for a flag-waving, shirt-ripping Hulk Hogan. He’s not quite an A-list celebrity, but he’s way closer than Scott Baio or the parade of soap opera stars that have graced the RNC stage so far.

So there it is. Peter Thiel is giving the GOP convention what it thought it would get four years ago with Clint Eastwood ― a famous face who will rile up the crowd before they hear from their nominee. He might even bring an empty chair. The only difference is that it will be metal, and he’ll pretend to hit someone with it.