Before he became a member of the PayPal Mafia or invested in Facebook, Silicon Valley billionaire and Donald Trump delegate Peter Thiel co-wrote a book called The Diversity Myth: Multiculturalism and Political Tolerance on Campus. Published in 1995, the book is notorious for its rigorous defense of a Stanford law student’s homophobic outbursts at a staff member. Just last week, Julie Carrie Wong of the Guardian unearthed another unsettling passage in which Thiel and his co-author, David O. Sacks, cast doubt on the believability of undergraduate women who claim their male peers have raped them. Now Thiel is backtracking.
In a statement provided to Ryan Mac of Forbes on Monday night, the Facebook board member said:
More than two decades ago, I co-wrote a book with several insensitive, crudely argued statements. As I’ve said before, I wish I’d never written those things. I’m sorry for it. Rape in all forms is a crime. I regret writing passages that have been taken to suggest otherwise.
As detailed by the Guardian, those “insensitive, crudely argued” statements include such assertions as, “It is ludicrous to believe that anyone who had been forcefully violated would not know it and bear physical marks. But since a multicultural rape charge may indicate nothing more than belated regret, a woman might ‘realize’ that she had been ‘raped’ the next day or even many days later.” And: “The purpose of the rape crisis movement seems as much about vilifying men as about raising ‘awareness.’”
Thiel has in fact expressed some contrition for The Diversity Myth in the past, but not specifically about its arguments concerning the existence of date rape. A 2011 profile in The New Yorker indicated that his regrets centered primarily on his criticism of what he saw as political correctness, which culminated in his advocacy for Keith Rabois, the Stanford law student who shouted “Faggot! Faggot! Hope you die of AIDS!” at a university administrator:
Thiel says that he wishes he’d never written about the Rabois incident. “All of the identity-related things are in my mind much more nuanced,” he said. “I think there is a gay experience, I think there is a black experience, I think there is a woman’s experience that is meaningfully different. I also think there was a tendency to exaggerate it and turn it into an ideological category.” But his reaction against political correctness, he said, was just as narrowly ideological. “The Diversity Myth” now seems to cause Thiel mild embarrassment: political correctness on campus turned out to be the least of the country’s problems.
David O. Sacks, the other co-author of The Diversity Myth, apologized for his involvement on Monday as well, telling Kara Swisher of Recode, “You’re right — this is college journalism written over 20 years ago. It does not represent who I am or what I believe today. I’m embarrassed by some of my former views and regret writing them.” However, both Thiel and Sacks, who now serves as CEO of Zenefits, had already graduated from college when The Diversity Myth was published in 1995, so it’s a pretty big stretch to blame the book’s ideas on “college journalism.”
Thiel’s own late-night apology to Forbes rings hollow for another, more obvious reason: The billionaire recently earmarked $1.25 million to elect Donald Trump, who has been accused of sexual assault by a growing number of women, and was caught bragging on a hot mic about grabbing women by their genitalia. Thiel recently announced that he plans to explain his steadfast support of Trump at a speech in Washington, D.C. on October 31.