Venture capitalist Blake Masters declared on Twitter this week that COVID “vaccine mandates are evil”—a predictable play meant to rally his base in his bid to win the GOP Senate primary in Arizona. But it rankled one of his former best friends, Collin Wedel, an appellate attorney based in Los Angeles who served as the best man at Masters’ wedding.
“Shame on you. I’m so utterly disappointed in what you’ve done with yourself. People will get sick, and die, because of your reckless rhetoric,” Wedel tweeted in reply.
Wedel thought the message would effectively be private. His tweets are protected, readable only to his 40 followers, including Masters.
Masters—who is chief operating officer of Trump-backing billionaire Peter Thiel’s investment firm—had other ideas.
He screenshotted Wedel’s post and shared it with his 52,000 followers, breathlessly proclaiming, “The most deadly virus we face is progressivism, it rots both brains and nations. I wish Collin well — but freedom is worth losing friends over.”
In an interview with The Daily Beast on Friday, Wedel said that Masters’ political trajectory—the Trump endorsement, the “build the wall” rhetoric, the Critical Race Theory bandwagoning—has turned him into something of a stranger.
“My knowledge of and friendship with Blake until he announced his candidacy for Senate was of him being a fundamentally sweet and nice guy with quirky libertarian views,” Wedel said. “Not stuff that would be as offensive as his current platform.
“He started to toy with being a ‘nationalist’ right after the 2016 election, so I suppose I should have seen it coming,” he added.
“I have to believe he is too smart to believe most of this stuff,” he said.
In a private message to The Daily Beast, Masters offered softer words than he had tweeted in public.
“I think Collin is great. He’s got a great family, he’s a great dad — will always be ready to catch up with him over a beer or let our kids play together,” he wrote. “The contempt only goes one way, but these are divisive times and I have no ill will. Mainly it’s just sad.”
But he was unapologetic for blasting his old friend: “What I won’t do is stop saying what I know to be true, just to fit in or be accepted by others. There’s too much at stake for that.”
Masters is reportedly trailing Arizona attorney general Mark Brnovich in the primary race—in spite of major help from Thiel. The billionaire has fundraised for his protégé and put $10 million into a Super PAC supporting him.
Masters first got to know the Paypal founder after taking a class he taught at Stanford Law School. (He and Wedel sat next to each other.) Masters and Thiel later teamed to write the bestselling book Zero to One, which was based on the class.
Wedel says the pair’s affinity made natural sense. “Blake has always been, since I first knew him, very libertarian,” he said.
Even in sixth grade, when he and Masters became friends, the political leanings were obvious.
“His parents would give me rides in their car home for basketball practice… They were always listening to Michael Savage on the radio,” Wedel said. Later, “[Masters] gave me copies of Ayn Rand books and Ludwig von Mises essays and books about the gold standard.”
They remained close for years. Wedel recalled an incident on a vacation to Mexico after their senior year of high school, when he and Masters decided to take out a rickety plastic sailboat.
“The wind died when we're in the middle of the ocean, so I had the bright idea of jumping out of the boat and just holding onto the side of it,” he said. “And then [we] sailed right through a giant Portuguese man o’ war” jellyfish, which wrapped itself around Wedel’s head and neck.
Masters punched the creature off his friend’s head, then “swam the fastest half mile of his life back to shore to go get help.”
Wedel’s face and throat began to swell severely, but he received medical aid in time to “keep me from dying,” he said.
It was a traumatic event that would bond any two people for life. And Wedel insists he hasn’t cut off Masters for good.
“I consider us to still be friends,” he said. Masters’ tweets and messaging, particularly about public health, simply demanded a public reproach.
“If [his tweet] encourages even one person to not get a vaccine, and it prolongs the pandemic, you know, in my mind that that's dangerous, and he has a responsibility to be better than that.”