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Peter Thiel: Talented Folks Only Go to NYC, Silicon Valley, Certainly Not Chicago

Peter Thiel

The gay tech billionaire and Donald Trump supporter offended many a Windy City resident this week.

Gay technology billionaire Peter Thiel gave a speech in Chicago this week and managed to insult the entire city -- and, well, pretty much the whole nation, except for a couple of enclaves.

"If you are a very talented person, you have a choice: You either go to New York or you go to Silicon Valley," Thiel, the founder of PayPal, told an audience at Chicago's Roosevelt University Tuesday, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Stuart Warner, the Roosevelt professor who moderated Thiel's talk, didn't challenge him on that -- or on his support for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump or his funding of a lawsuit by Hulk Hogan that forced Gawker Media into bankruptcy, the Tribune notes.

But an audience member did afterward, asking, "Who comes to Chicago if first-rate people go to New York or Silicon Valley?" Thiel stammered and said, "I didn't, I didn't, I didn't say that!" according to the Tribune. He then explained that he was using New York and Silicon Valley only metaphorically, as "extreme" examples, and didn't intend to insult Chicagoans.

That didn't placate the local media. Thiel "deigned to make a flying visit to our cow town to share a few pearls of wisdom" and did so "tactlessly," Kim Janssen wrote in the Tribune. A Chicagoist contributor called him a "cartoon villain."

In July, Thiel addressed the Republican National Convention, one of the few out gay men ever to do so. He voiced enthusiastic support for Trump while saying he didn't "pretend to agree with every plank in our party's platform," which the gay GOP group Log Cabin Republicans called the most anti-LGBT in the party's history, with its continued opposition to marriage equality and thinly veiled endorsement of "ex-gay" therapy.

"But fake culture wars only distract us from our economic decline, and nobody in this race is being honest about it except Donald Trump," Thiel added in his convention speech.

Thiel's funding of former pro wrestler Hogan's invasion of privacy suit against Gawker Media has led some pundits to worry if freedom of the press becomes meaningless when a wealthy individual can bring down a journalism organization. It's been reported that Thiel was angry with Gawker Media founder Nick Denton, also a gay man, because Thiel was outed on one of the company's sites. But Denton recently said Thiel was more angry because of articles that mocked his political ideology and business strategies.

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