CNBC Anchor Outs Tim Cook, Apple CEO, In Shocking Context

It’s bad enough that CNBC host Simon Hobbs outed Apple CEO Tim Cook as gay, without permission to discuss the man’s sexuality, but the context makes it even more shocking. Cook’s outing actually came directly after a discussion of how damaging it was for another top CEO to be outed against his will by a tabloid paper.

The waters may have been slightly muddied for Hobbs, because Tim Cook did make the top slot in Out Magazine‘s 2013 lineup of openly gay folk who are making changes in how people see the LGBTQ community, and has been outed before.

According to Apple Insider, Cook is very private, and the closest he’s come to any public declaration of sexuality is when he mentioned, in an acceptance speech for a Lifetime Achievement Award, that he had faced discrimination during his life due that he refers to as “rooted in fear of people that were different than the majority.”

However, Cook got no more specific than that, leaving it open to speculation whether that referred to sexuality, or to people being uncomfortable with some other aspect of his life, which he also chose not to expound upon.

As for the CNBC slip, contributor James Stewart was on the show to discuss an upcoming column about John Browne, a former BP CEO who left his job after being outed by a tabloid paper in 2007. Browne has written a book about the difficulties he faced as an outed CEO, and Stewart explains in the clip that he reached out to many gay CEOs for the column, but none was willing to be a part of it.

It’s only then, after a clear statement that gay CEOs don’t want to be out, and that gay CEOs have a hard time at work after being outed, that the co-host drops Tim Cook’s name, causing an awkward pause, as everyone else appears to be trying to register that Hobbs has just done to Cook exactly what was done to Browne.

Indeed, it should be awkward. A lot has changed since 2007, and if Cook is gay, his experience as an outed CEO might be far easier than that of John Browne seven years ago. Still, easier doesn’t mean easy, and one thing hasn’t changed: a person’s sexuality belongs to that person.

Tim Cook’s sexuality didn’t become public property when he made Out Magazine‘s list, nor when he tweeted about anti-discrimination policies.

Cook’s sexuality didn’t become public property when discrimination against the LGBTQ community started decreasing, or when he mentioned discrimination in a speech.

Tim Cook’s sexuality belongs to no one but Tim Cook, and it’s unprofessional, and unacceptable, to speculate on it.

[Photo Credit: Valery Marchive]