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GOP May Not Like Tech Billionaire's Convention Speech

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Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, stands on stage prior to the start of the second day of the Republican National Convention on July 19, 2016. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Tech billionaire Peter Thiel is set to make history when he delivers his prime-time remarks Thursday night at the Republican convention. The openly gay entrepreneur who financially backed Hulk Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker is ready to rock the boat, and apparently Donald Trump is down with that.

When the Trump campaign released the list of speakers at this week's RNC convention in Cleveland, Thiel was among the names that raised eyebrows.

The co-founder of PayPal is a delegate for Trump but also represents an industry that's lined up solidly against the soon-to-be Republican nominee. In fact, about 140 Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, recently published a letter warning that a Trump presidency would be ruinous for the tech industry and all it stands for.

"He (Trump) campaigns on anger, bigotry, fear of new ideas and new people, and a fundamental belief that America is weak and in decline," they wrote. "We have listened to Donald Trump over the past year and we have concluded: Trump would be a disaster for innovation."

Thiel has gotten not just a prime-time speaking slot, but he's scheduled for Thursday night, when ratings will no doubt be highest. He is scheduled just three speakers before Trump accepts his party's nomination. So how will he use that seven minutes he's been allotted?


A source familiar with Thiel's speech tells me it will focus on two things: income inequality and the importance of keeping the U.S. out of wars.

"Silicon Valley is an island of prosperity," Thiel's confidante told me, "and Peter will say that all you need to do is cross a bridge" to find people who are struggling. Thiel will stress the importance of policies aimed at addressing those disparities.

Thiel, who is well known for his Libertarian viewpoint, sees Trump as the candidate best able to keep the U.S. out of military conflicts. That may be surprising, since the controversial mogul seems to already be in a verbal war with Mexico, Great Britain and Muslims worldwide.

"These are not perfect choices," the source told me, referring to Trump and Hillary Clinton. After asking why Thiel doesn't just support the Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson, I was told Thiel sees Trump and Clinton as the only "relevant choices."

But the Thiel comments sure to get the most headlines will be along the lines of "I am a proud openly gay American."

Thiel believes he will be the first speaker at a Republican convention to say "gay" and "proud" in the same sentence.

Note: Former Arizona congressman Jim Kolbe became the first openly gay speaker at a GOP convention in 2000, but did not mention his sexual orientation.

I'm told Thiel will also speak to the furor created by the controversial "bathroom bill" in North Carolina, which requires people to use the public bathroom that corresponds to their gender at birth. The message there: These culture wars are a waste of time and get in the way of serious issues.

Just how Thiel's speech will go over in the hall, in front of delegates who approved the most anti-gay Republican platform in history, remains to be seen.

But after the debacle involving Melania Trump's speech earlier this week, I would think the Trump campaign won't be surprised by what Thiel has to say.

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