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How Peter Thiel Defends His Support for Donald Trump

October 30, 2016, 8:56 PM UTC

In a New York Times interview published Friday, Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel laid out parts of the rationale for his ongoing support for Donald Trump, which has been met with hostility in some parts of the tech community. The interview previews a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington on Monday, where Thiel says he expects “some very tough questions about Trump.”

Saying he was “surprised by the intensity” of the tech world’s reaction to his recent Trump campaign donation, Thiel emphasized to the Times that his support was for Trump’s candidacy, not the Republican candidate’s personal behavior. “We’re at such a crucial point that you have to overlook personal characteristics.”

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That would seem to be an attempt by Thiel to distance himself from recordings in which Trump described sexually assaulting women. Thiel himself has recently apologized for parts of a book he authored in 1996, The Diversity Myth, which seemed to lay blame for some date rapes on the victim.

Thiel emphasized to the Times that his support for Trump is rooted in empathy for parts of the country that are not sharing in Silicon Valley’s economic boom times. He says that if that sense of a divided America continues, “it will ultimately be bad for everybody.”

For more on Peter Thiel, watch our video.

Notably, while Thiel distinguished Trump’s “personal behavior” from his economic populism, the Times did not publish any comments from Thiel repudiating Trump’s lengthy track record of what some entrepreneurs have characterized as racist rhetoric. And while Thiel has walked back his former statements about rape, he has not explicitly disowned The Diversity Myth’s central argument that multiculturalism and diversity lower educational standards.