National Press Club

Silicon Valley's Peter Thiel defends funding lawsuit against Gawker, support of Trump

October 31, 2016 | By Angela Greiling Keane | agreilingkeane@gmail.com

PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel speaks at Oct. 31 Speakers newsmaker event at Club.

PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel speaks at Oct. 31 Speakers newsmaker event at Club.

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

Venture capitalist and entrepreneur Peter Thiel told a packed National Press Club audience Oct. 31 that his only regret about funding a lawsuit against Gawker Media is that he wasn’t more transparent about being the person with the deep pockets financing the suit.

Thiel's comments about the highly publicized suit, which led to the website's bankruptcy, came at a Speakers newsmaker event where he also defended his controversial support for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. That position has garnered criticism from Thiel’s Silicon Valley counterparts.

Thiel, a cofounder of PayPal, characterized Trump as a candidate of change whom he supports even as he criticized the nominee’s comments on women. He said the timing of his announcement of his contributions to support Trump’s campaign was coincidental to the fact that it came just days after a raw tape of Trump talking graphically about women was released.

"Voters are tired of being lied to," Thiel said. "It was both insane and somehow inevitable that D.C. insiders expected this election to be a rerun between the two political dynasties who led us through the two most gigantic financial bubbles of our time."

Thiel said he would’ve preferred a general election contest between Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders, who lost to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.

Thiel defended funding wrestler Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker after the site had published a sex tape of Hogan. The verdict against the Gawker led the site to file for bankruptcy and shut its doors.

Thiel said he didn’t think the case would stifle press freedom because the posts that led to the suit weren’t something most news outlets would publish.

Thiel’s appearance at the Club was the first time he’s spoken at length and taken questions about his donations to support the Trump campaign. He spoke in July at the Republican National Convention to endorse the candidate.

During the hour-long event, “Peter Thiel” was the fourth-highest trending topic on Twitter in the U.S. and the hashtag #NPCLive, which the Club uses for live events, was the second-highest trending item on Twitter in the Washington area.