CLEVELAND – When the list of Republican National Convention speakers surfaced, billionaire Peter Thiel’s name gave just about everyone pause.
The billionaire co-founder of PayPal is one of the only Silicon Valley tech titans to openly embrace Donald Trump. He financed the lawsuit brought by Hulk Hogan that forced the gossip site Gawker into bankruptcy. And he’s an openly gay man speaking to delegates who this week approved a party platform condemning same-sex marriage.
Speaking Thursday ahead of Trump’s blockbuster address, Thiel quickly acknowledged the awkward trappings of his address.
“When I was a kid, the great debate was about how to defeat the Soviet Union. And we won. Now we are told that the great debate is about who gets to use which bathroom,” he said. “This is a distraction from our real problems. Who cares?”
A roar of applause from the crowd.
“I am proud to be gay. I am proud to be a Republican. But most of all I am proud to be an American.”
Another roar of applause.
“I don’t pretend to agree with every plank in our party’s platform,” he said. “But fake culture wars only distract us from our economic decline. And nobody in this race is being honest about it except Donald Trump.”
And then, his close:
“When Donald Trump asks us to Make America Great Again, he’s not suggesting a return to the past. He’s running to lead us back to that bright future. Tonight I urge all of my fellow Americans to stand up and vote for Donald Trump.”