The New York Times recently interviewed venture capitalist and Trump adviser Peter Thiel, a figure well known to many in the liberty movement for his support for Ron Paul’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns.
During the interview, Thiel recounted a discussion with an individual who claimed to be supporting Donald Trump in private, while aligning himself with Gary Johnson in public:
“I was having dinner last week with a high-profile venture capitalist and he said, ‘I’m voting for Trump but I have to lie and tell everyone I’m voting for Gary Johnson,’” the third-party candidate, said Mr. Thiel. “He was stunningly matter-of-fact about it.”
Although the individual Thiel had dinner with remains anonymous, his description of a “high-profile venture capitalist” who publicly stated he would vote for Gary Johnson, but has shown many pro-Trump sympathies, seems to suggest that the individual is Palmer Luckey, though this cannot at this point be confirmed.
The Daily Beast reported in September that Luckey, an entrepreneur and the co-founder of Oculus VR, an acclaimed technology company specializing in virtual reality hardware, had a history of posting on the online Reddit community r/The_Donald, as well as funding the pro-Trump group Nimble America. This report led to a huge backlash from the largely pro-Clinton technology world, with some developers refusing to continue to make software for Oculus’ flagship product, the Rift.
As a result of this, Luckey made a post on Facebook denying his support for Trump, stating the following:
“I am deeply sorry that my actions are negatively impacting the perception of Oculus and its partners.The recent news stories about me do not accurately represent my views.
Here’s more background: I contributed $10,000 to Nimble America because I thought the organization had fresh ideas on how to communicate with young voters through the use of several billboards. I am a libertarian who has publicly supported Ron Paul and Gary Johnson in the past, and I plan on voting for Gary in this election as well.
I am committed to the principles of fair play and equal treatment. I did not write the “NimbleRichMan” posts, nor did I delete the account. Reports that I am a founder or employee of Nimble America are false. I don’t have any plans to donate beyond what I have already given to Nimble America.
Still, my actions were my own and do not represent Oculus. I’m sorry for the impact my actions are having on the community.”
Following this incident, the Gary Johnson presidential campaign listed Luckey on their website as one of their key endorsements from business leaders.
Given the damage that this blowback was causing, it is understandable why Luckey may have decided to say he was voting for Gary Johnson, who is considered a much more palatable candidate than Trump in Silicon Valley, due to his perceived moderation on many issues and progressive stance on immigration. Luckey continues to work for Facebook (it acquired Oculus in 2014), which is notorious for its liberal bias.
The name of the group “Nimble America” clearly refers to the lyrics of the Knife Party song, “Centipede”, which has become associated with support for Trump by the popular Can’t Stump the Trump YouTube video series. As well as this, the article in The Daily Beast notes that a meeting between Luckey and prominent Trump supporter Milo Yiannopoulos marked the beginning of Luckey’s involvement with Nimble America. It is thus evident that Luckey was at the very least broadly sympathetic to Trump.
Ultimately, Gary Johnson’s presidential campaign was a failure, with the candidate receiving just 3.2% of the popular vote across the country. Millions of conservatives and libertarians who had considered supporting him and the other right-of-center third-party candidate, Evan McMullin, ultimately coalesced behind Donald Trump’s candidacy, dissatisfied with the alternative options and worried about the possibility of a Clinton presidency. It appears that Oculus VR’s Palmer Luckey was one of them.