Supporting Peter Thiel isn't embracing 'diversity'

It's excusing bigotry.
Nicole Lee
N. Lee|10.20.16

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Presidential candidate Donald Trump has had a rough week. After a tape was revealed of him bragging that he could grab women "by the pussy" and get away with it, several former female acquaintances have come forward accusing him of sexual assault. But that hasn't stopped venture capitalist Peter Thiel, an ardent Trump supporter, from giving him $1.25 million this past weekend. It so happens that Thiel is also a part-time partner of startup incubator Y Combinator and a longtime member of Facebook's board of directors. Yet neither entity has rescinded its support of Thiel. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's reason? To protect those with "different viewpoints" in the name of "diversity."

Y Combinator president Sam Altman gave a similar reason, saying that we should talk to people who are "different from we are" and that to terminate its relationship with Thiel over his support of a political candidate would be a "dangerous path" to take.

I can see their point if Trump was an ordinary Republican candidate. Facebook has already come under fire earlier this year for apparently suppressing conservative news and Zuckerberg has made a few anti-Trump remarks in the past, so it's understandable that he wants to make nice on both sides of the political aisle.

But Trump is not a normal conservative. He has made blatantly xenophobic and racist statements by threatening to ban an entire religion, calling Mexicans "rapists" and implying that all African-Americans live in crime-infested "inner cities" (even his racism is outdated). He has said he would pay the legal fees of any supporter that attacked protesters. He has not denounced the support he's received from white supremacists and far-right hate groups. He's been accused of sexual harassment, assault and even rape. He has said that once elected, he wants to have his political rival sent to jail. Worse, he refused to say whether or not he'd accept the results of the election and has accused it of being rigged -- with absolutely zero evidence -- sowing distrust and inciting conflict.


These are the statements of a misogynist, a racist and a fascist. And by donating such a large sum of money to his campaign, Thiel is essentially endorsing Trump's hateful behavior. Ellen Pao, a co-founder of a diversity initiative called Project Include, wrote in a blog post that this donation is a "direct contribution to creating hate and instilling fear."

Zuckerberg wrote, "There are many reasons a person might support Trump that do not involve racism, sexism, xenophobia or sexual assault." That is superficially true, but it suggests that saying hateful, misogynistic things and being repeatedly accused of sexual assault shouldn't automatically disqualify you from running for the presidency, regardless of your political views.

Even members of Trump's own party are abandoning him. Arizona Senator John McCain has withdrawn his support, House Speaker Paul Ryan has refused to campaign for him and former GOP rivals like Jeb Bush and John Kasich have denounced him as well. In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Maine Senator Susan Collins wrote that Trump "does not reflect historical Republican values nor the inclusive approach to governing that is critical to healing the divisions in our country." Mitt Romney, 2012 Republican presidential nominee, has said, "I simply couldn't ignore what Mr. Trump was saying and doing, which revealed a character and temperament unfit for the leader of the free world." To them, denouncing Trump has nothing to do with a disagreement over tax codes or public policy. Instead, it's taking a stand for basic human decency.

And let's not kid ourselves: There's a difference between welcoming opposing viewpoints on Facebook and promoting straight-up bigotry. It's one thing to provide a platform for people to say whatever they want under the guise of free speech, and it's another thing to basically say it's OK for a member of your own board of directors to support a hatemonger.

In short, it's laughable that Zuckerberg is keeping Thiel on Facebook's board in order to cultivate a culture of "diversity" when Trump's entire rhetoric is against it. Maybe, instead, Zuckerberg could direct his efforts into real inclusion by hiring more women and underrepresented minorities. Or inviting a single person of color to join its board. Maybe then I could believe that Facebook believed in diversity. But as long as Facebook keeps Thiel on its board of directors, I can't say that I do.

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