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In a discussion on evaluating gay CEOS on CNBC this morning, in the wake of a book in which former BP CEO John Browne talked about being a closeted gay executive, “Squawk on the Street” co-host Simon Hobbs managed to create a bit of a hubbub by stating accidentally that Apple CEO Tim Cook was “openly gay.”

Not so much, since Cook has not discussed his personal life in any public forum, despite much sideways speculation about it, such as a recent piece in the New York Times that did everything but declare it.

But Hobbs dispensed with the veiled reference, a statement which was met with awkward silence by those gathered on the panel. That included New York Times columnist James Stewart, who was there talking about his column on the lack of high-profile gay execs across the business landscape.

“There are gay CEOs in major companies, and I reached out to many of them,” said Stewart. “I got an extremely cool reception; not one would allow to be named at all.”

Hobbs then suddenly brought up Cook: “I think Tim Cook is fairly open about the fact he’s gay at the head of Apple, isn’t he?”

Crickets.

Hobbs quickly tried to recover: “Oh, dear, was that an error? I thought he was open about it.”

Nope. “I don’t want to comment about anybody who might or might not be,” said Stewart. “I’m not going to out anybody.”

The issue of how much personal information anyone in business has to reveal is a loaded one, especially when it comes to sexuality. For the record, I have never asked Cook, or most other execs I query, about any aspects of his personal life in my several interviews with him at our conference events. While others may disagree, I am conflicted on this one (see disclosure below) and pretty much am in the mind-your-own-business school of thought here.

CNBC declined comment and I have contacted Apple for a comment, but here is the clip of the CNBC exchange:

(Full disclosure: NBCUniversal is a minority investor in Revere Digital, which publishes Re/code, and we have a news operating agreement with its news division. Also, oh dear, I am a gay CEO.)




15 comments
bdowning1
bdowning1

Why the Hell is it anybody's business whether or not Tim Cook, or ANYONE else for that matter, is gay? And what does a person's sexuality have to do with their job. How 'bout we all just mind our own business?

PrincetonNJ
PrincetonNJ

James Stewart doesn't acknowledge he's gay in the segment, and I don't think has or certainly not frequently.  Given that he's calling CEOs to see if they'll speak on the record about being gay, and given that he seems surprised that CEOs aren't comfortable discussing being gay, I think his lack of transparency is ironic, unfortunate and a disservice to the viewer in terms of their understanding of his approach to reporting on this topic.

tslewis4
tslewis4

Obviously, we need an "app for that". It could list the names of all the gay CEOs, and constantly update whether they were "openly" gay or not.


Oh, wait. There's a problem with that....



Tommy Rector
Tommy Rector

 The NPR interview with Browne did NOT mention Cook specifically, but a day later a listener wrote in and make the statement "Mr. Browne didn't mention Tim Cook and he is openly gay" which was read on the air and commented on as if true.  I was shocked to hear that since Cook has never openly made any statement to that effect.  It is quite gauche to "go there" without a flu understanding of someone's orientation.  I don't think Cook cares one way or the other about what NPR or CNBC say.  He is who he is. 

rreed2000
rreed2000

I believe Mr. Browne was interviewed about his book two weeks ago on NPR and he mentioned Tim Cooke as one of handful of gay CEOs in the country.  So this isn't something new.

stsk
stsk

 It's hard to imagine anyone didn't know about Tim Cook, despite the lack of official verification, but "outing" is reprehensible.

JMWJMW
JMWJMW

@AhContraire  This is tasteless and "fishwifery."  Mr. Cook, and any gay adult certainly is in a position to make their own decisions about their own private lives without interference from anyone.


As for the details of one's bathroom habits, what happens in the bedroom, or what doctors say, please: these are private matters.

JMWJMW
JMWJMW

@Tommy Rector  Tim Cook's sexuality is his own matter.  Because he seems to keep such matters private is an indication that it's none of our business.  And, just who has a full understanding of their own sexual 'orientation?"  Why the singular?

Logan S
Logan S

@stsk Agreed! That anchor should be temporarily placed on leave.

Aristotle
Aristotle

@stsk So do you want equality or not? Apparently, you want to have your cake and eat it too?

Aristotle
Aristotle

@JMWJMW @Tommy Rector Here is the problem. Not only is he a public figure but he has consistently used his position to threaten state governments in Arizona with pulling out of that state because of "gay rights". He has taken it upon himself to speak out on gay issues while in the capacity of CEO of Apple.


If he were to make statements in support of gays when off the clock as a private citizen, that would be a different story but he has actually tried to leverage his position as CEO to convince politicians in states like Arizona to not pass laws that reinforce the traditional definition of marriage.

BryceMartin
BryceMartin

@ Aristotle Please announce all your sexual preferences too - apparently you only do missionary position with your god-fearing wife and in the dark (in case you see her toilet bits) whilst reading the bible?  Or, more likely you are 15 years old and friendless ... lol

Logan S
Logan S

@BryceMartin do not reply to those kinds of comments. More importantly do not reply to him. Like everyone else, just ignore him and let his absurd comments fall on deaf ears. It's unfortunate that those awful comments make America look so very badly.

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