Brace yourself: Think-pieces on the import of Apple CEO Tim Cook's sexuality are coming. It's a near inevitability thanks to the clumsy outing of Cook on CNBC. But ask yourself: If Cook hasn't seen fit to make his personal life a big topic, why should you?
Today, on CNBC's "Squawk On The Street" segment, a panel discussion on openly gay CEOs in large companies turned tabloid fodder when New York Times columnist James Stewart said that he had talked to a number of gay CEOs of major companies, but none of them wanted to be named.
"There are gay CEOs in major companies, and I reached out to many of them," Stewart said. "I got an extremely cool reception, not one of them would allow to be named at all."
CNBC co-anchor Simon Hobbs jumped at the chance to put his foot in his mouth, countering that "Tim Cook is open about the fact he's gay at the head of Apple, isn't he?"
That sound you hear afterward is the audio equivalent of a facepalm.
Hobbs tried to stuff the words back into his mouth, saying "I thought [Cook] was open about it."
Cook has not been open about it.
Stewart took the high road in responding to Hobbs' supposed Cook outing:
"I don't want to comment about anybody who might or might not be," the Times columnist said. "I'm not going to out anybody."
Since Apple is in the business of making the best-selling tablets, smartphones, and ultra-light computers in the world, most of the focus on Tim Cook – who took the reins at Apple following Steve Jobs' death – has been on his performance as a CEO, not on his sexuality. To call Cook's sexuality an "open secret" would be to apply a misnomer; it's not a secret because Cook hasn't been keeping it from anyone, because Cook hasn't seen fit to discuss it.
The Apple chief has seen fit to comment on advances in equal rights for the LGBT community, though, applauding the Obama administration's efforts to end discrimination at federal contractors and offering comment on the struggle for equal rights.
"Now is the time to write these basic principles of human dignity into the book of law," Cook has said regarding gay rights. "Do not do them because they are economically sound – although they are – do them because they are right and just."
The closest Cook appears to have come on speaking on the issue as it relates to him may have come late last year in a speech given at his alma mater, Auburn University.
"I have seen and have experienced many types of discrimination," Cook said, "and all of them were rooted in the fear of people that were different than the majority."
Cook did not elaborate on what sort of discrimination he experienced, but the fact that Out Magazine named Cook the most powerful LGBT person in the world would seem to give some indication of what he was talking about.
And, still, that doesn't matter. With Cook at the helm, Apple has gone on to sell more iPhones and iPads than ever before, and the company looks ready to launch an array of new, segment-defining products to grow its product margins even more. Cook has consistently made moves to ensure that Apple is at the forefront of consumer technology, be it through honing the company's existing products or buying up talent to shore up Apple's cool cred.
Whatever Tim Cook's sexuality may be, it has no impact on any of that, and – outside of the odd, celebrity-obsessed voyeurism that pervades even our business news culture, apparently – one has to wonder why we would even care.
This may well turn into an issue. Even the publication of this piece may help it along that path. Tim Cook, though, will likely handle it with the same reserved dignity with which he's handled everything else at Apple since taking over.