Peter Thiel apologizes for rape comments

Peter Thiel in 108 seconds
Peter Thiel in 108 seconds

Peter Thiel, the billionaire tech investor and prominent Trump supporter, apologized on Tuesday for his decades-old comments on rape that have gained renewed attention in recent days.

After graduating Stanford, Thiel coauthored a book in 1995 called The Diversity Myth, criticizing the "debilitating impact" of "politically correct multiculturalism" on college education.

The book included several controversial passages questioning how Stanford handled sexual assault and pushing back on the claims of a particular student who said she had been raped while under the influence of alcohol.

"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," according to one passage. "Under these circumstances, it is unclear who should be held responsible. If the alcohol made both of them do it, then why should the woman's consent be obviated any more than the man's? Why is all blame placed on the man?"

On Tuesday, Thiel issued a rare apology for these comments.

"More than two decades ago, I co-wrote a book with several insensitive, crudely argued statements," Thiel said in a statement provided to CNNMoney. "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."

Forbes was first to report Thiel's apology.

Thiel's coauthor David Sacks, who sold Yammer to Microsoft (MSFT) before taking over at HR startup Zenefits, also issued an apology, referring to the book as "college journalism" from 20 years ago.

"It does not represent who I am or what I believe today," Sacks said in a statement. "I'm embarrassed by some of my former views and regret writing them."

Related: Mark Zuckerberg breaks his silence on Peter Thiel

The rape comments resurfaced in the media last week after Thiel donated $1.25 million to Donald Trump's presidential campaign.

Thiel was already controversial in the tech industry for his decision to back Trump, a deeply unpopular figure in Silicon Valley. The PayPal (PYPL) cofounder and longest serving Facebook (FB) board member served as a Trump delegate and spoke at the Republican National Convention.

But Thiel's decision to to make a contribution while Trump is facing numerous allegations of sexual assault further infuriated many of his peers.

Ellen Pao, the former interim CEO of Reddit and cofounder of Project Include, said it would cut ties with startup incubator Y Combinator because Thiel is a part-time partner there.

In an internal memo, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg argued that it was because of Facebook's commitment to "diversity" that it would not remove someone from the board because of their political views.

Related: The Science of Political Deception

Thiel is famous in Silicon Valley for being a contrarian who puts his money behind unusual or controversial efforts.

He is a backer of the Seasteading Institute to create floating societies away from the government. He also spent $10 million to secretly fund Hulk Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker, which resulted in the media company going bankrupt. And he may be backing Trump out of a similar contrarian impulse.

"Peter's argument obviously is that we need a radical change so throwing a grenade in the works is better than steady on," Reid Hoffman, who worked with Thiel at PayPal, told CNN's Erin Burnett last month.

However, Amazon (AMZN) CEO Jeff Bezos took a swing at this way of thinking when asked about Thiel's political activities at a press event last week.

"Peter Thiel is a contrarian," Bezos said. "You just have to remember that contrarians are usually wrong."

At least this time, when it comes to his thinking on sexual assaults on campus, Thiel is willing to admit as much.

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