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It Is News That Apple’s New CEO Is Gay?

Ever since Steve Jobs’ decision to step down as CEO of Apple was announced, there’s been an undercurrent of discussion in some sectors of the media about whether certain facts about the private life of his successor are newsworthy. Within hours after it was announced that Tim Cook would succeed Jobs at the head of Apple, Felix Salmon was arguing that the media should not ignore the fact that he is, apparently, a homosexual:

Tim Cook is now the most powerful gay man in the world. This is newsworthy, no? But you won’t find it reported in any legacy/mainstream outlet. And when the FT’s Tim Bradshaw did no more than broach the subject in a single tweet, he instantly found himself fielding a barrage of responses criticizing him from so much as mentioning the subject. Similarly, when Gawker first reported Cook’s sexuality in January, MacDailyNews called their actions “petty, vindictive, and just plain sad.”

But surely this is something we can and should be celebrating, if only in the name of diversity — that a company which by some measures the largest and most important in the world is now being run by a gay man. Certainly when it comes to gay role models, Cook is great: he’s the boring systems-and-processes guy, not the flashy design guru, and as such he cuts sharply against stereotype. He’s like Barney Frank in that sense: a super-smart, powerful and non-effeminate man who shows that being gay is no obstacle to any career you might want.

One of the issues here is that most news outlets cover Cook as part of their Apple story, and Cook’s sexuality is irrelevant to his role at Apple. And so the other story — the fact that the ranks of big-company CEOs have just become significantly more diverse — is being overlooked and ignored. And that’s bad for the gay and lesbian community more broadly.

Salmon’s post generated much commentary from his readers, much of it negative, and Salmon defended his argument in a later post:0

There is nothing salacious about someone being straight, or being gay. Insofar as you think it’s salacious, that’s because you think that being gay is somehow naughty, or shameful. Is this an invasion of privacy? To a certain extent, yes. More people know more things about Tim Cook now than they did a few weeks ago. That’s what happens when you become the CEO of Apple.

In any public corporation, there’s a small number of people whose jobs are outward-facing, and at the top of the list is always the CEO. He’s the public face of the company; if you see a corporate profile on the cover of a glossy magazine, chances are it will be illustrated with a big picture of the CEO. If you don’t want your face splashed across the world’s media, then you shouldn’t be CEO of a massively valuable company which touches millions of people. Sometimes, as in the case of Mark Zuckerberg, entire movies — and not particularly accurate ones, either — are made about you and your personal life. Reporting that Tim Cook is gay is absolutely nothing, in the invasion-of-privacy stakes, compared to The Social Network. But CEOs, especially CEOs of public companies, are public figures. Their salaries are a matter of public knowledge. When you’re a public figure, you lose a certain amount of privacy. And the higher your profile rises, the more privacy you lose. Tim Cook knows that; he knows that it’s silly to expect to be the CEO of Apple without the world knowing that he’s gay. So let’s stop pretending that we’re not talking about this subject for his sake.

Regardless of why the media isn’t talking about it, it seems rather clear that Cook isn’t talking about it. It certainly can’t be because he’s feared for his job. California outlaws discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation, and Apple has a reputation for being among the most gay-friendly employers in the California technology community. Even though it isn’t something that he broadcasts, Cook’s sexual orientation is apparently common knowledge in that community. More importantly, it clearly hasn’t hurt his rise at Apple to the top position, an appointment filled with tremendous responsibility and symbolism simply because of who he is replacing.

Why should it matter, then, who, if anyone, he sleeps with when he goes home at night?

Steve Jobs has been a part of the business and technology world since the 1980s, and I didn’t know until I looked it up on Wikipedia that he was married and had four children, including one from a previous relationship. Outside of Melinda Gates, who has taken a public role as the head of her husband’s foundation, I couldn’t name a single family member of a prominent CEO, and I consider myself someone who is fairly well informed when it comes to business news and news in general. Clearly, the media doesn’t pay significant attention to the personal lives of these people. Why? Because it isn’t really relevant to their jobs. Why should Tim Cook be treated any differently simply because the gay community wants to force him to play the part of a role model, a role that he may not want to play?

I understand Salmon’s argument, but if Tim Cook choose to keep this part of his life private, then why is it any of our damn business?

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Harrumph says:

    Not news.

    Face it… Sombody being gay may rile those over 65 and in the pseudo-bible-belt, but most people no longer care.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  2. Vast Variety says:

    People need to see to the faces of gay men and women leading regular lives and being successful in order to get past the stereotypes and hate. It also shows those of us that are gay that we don’t have to let the hate tear us down.

    Regardless of if Tim Cook likes it or not, as the CEO of one of the worlds largest and most influential companies ( and I can’t stand the fact that I just said that as I hate Apple) he has become the poster child of what a successful gay man can be. Is it an invasion of privacy, yes. But if we lived in a world where being gay wasn’t considered a one way path to hell and damnation and an open invitation to bullying, societal scorn, and even physical abuse, then maybe we wouldn’t need people like Tim Cook as examples of how better it can be.

    Unfortunately people like Bryan Fisher and Maggie Gallagher remind us everyday that hate doesn’t give up easily and we still have a long way to go.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  3. Dan says:

    It matters to those of us who are gay and remember past 1980.

    Though it’s interesting that this gets so much press while Steve Jobs being an anchor baby is left out of most articles praising him as an example of American entrepreneurship.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  4. JKB says:

    Oh, great. Now, Apple will sell computers in bright, even flamboyant colors that appear to be more about fun than business. Nah, that’d never work.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  5. Boyd says:

    I concur with Vast Variety. The fact that Mr Cook is gay matters to everyone, regardless of their own sexual orientation, as a reinforcement of the idea that regardless of one’s sexual orientation one can still be considered “normal.” I don’t think we’re far enough down the road of “gay folks is just folks” to not emphasize their normality. It further matters to the gay community for Mr Cook to serve as a role model, to some degree.

    And in a similar vein to Vast Variety, I dislike Apple products, in my case after being an avid user early on. They chose to go in directions that I didn’t like, though, so I now avoid their products.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  6. Sam says:

    “It Is News That Apple’s New CEO Is Gay?”

    Apparently or you would not have written this story!

    Who the HELL cares except those who have issues?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  7. Sam says:

    @Dan:

    It matters to those who are sick individuals who define themselves by who they prefer to have sex and relationships with.

    THAT is sick and twisted!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 5

  8. Boyd says:

    @Sam: There are plenty of “good” reasons to care, Sam.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  9. Sam says:

    @Boyd:

    They are what? To continue to define people by their sexual appetite is continuing to separate the people of this country. Just as MLK want us to see the content of ones character and not ones skin, we need to see each other as humans and not our sexuality.
    And we wonder why so many still look at homos as different? Because many promote their sexual proclivities and we have stories like this one!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  10. mantis says:

    @Vast Variety:

    Regardless of if Tim Cook likes it or not, as the CEO of one of the worlds largest and most influential companies ( and I can’t stand the fact that I just said that as I hate Apple) he has become the poster child of what a successful gay man can be. Is it an invasion of privacy, yes. But if we lived in a world where being gay wasn’t considered a one way path to hell and damnation and an open invitation to bullying, societal scorn, and even physical abuse, then maybe we wouldn’t need people like Tim Cook as examples of how better it can be.

    Can’t say I disagree with this, but I would say that it still isn’t necessary for the business news media to focus on Cook’s sexuality. It has nothing to do with running the business, and it’s not news.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  11. Boyd says:

    @Sam: It’s foolish to think that society can shed an idea overnight, as mistaken as that idea may be. Sure, what you’re advocating would be fantastic…if we lived in Utopia. But we don’t. Welcome to reality.

    Oh, and by the way, did you happen to notice the reaction of many folks back in November 2008 after Barack Obama was elected President? We’ve been working on normalizing skin color a lot longer than sexuality, and we’re clearly not there yet. It’s going to take some time, and many good examples like Tim Cook, to get there.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  12. Sam says:

    @Boyd:

    When a black candidate for President gets 95% of the black vote, we have a problem.

    Until each individual stops with the separating of the citizenry, we will have what we still see.
    It starts in each ones heart and mind.

    When we see stories like this and people still defining themselves as a member of some “group” we will never see the color blind and now sexual proclivity blind nation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  13. Boyd says:

    @Sam:

    When we see stories like this and people still defining themselves as a member of some “group” we will never see the color blind and now sexual proclivity blind nation.

    I concur. Clearly, though, a huge chunk of people still define themselves by their skin color and/or by their sexual orientation. So, we’re all just supposed to squinch our eyes closed and act like that isn’t reality?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  14. Sam says:

    @Boyd:

    “So, we’re all just supposed to squinch our eyes closed and act like that isn’t reality? ”

    Not at all. Just do not further the problem by writing stories like this one!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  15. Boyd says:

    @Sam: I propose that not writing stories like this one is effectively squinching our eyes closed.

    So, you’ve said what you wouldn’t do, Sam, but we haven’t heard what you propose to bring gays into the mainstream, to overcome the attitude of some among them that they’re different in some meaningful way, to regard their own sexuality as “just another part of me, such as the color of my hair or my eyes.”

    Are we to just ignore that situation until it goes away on its own?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  16. Dan says:

    @Sam: It matters to those of us who spent a lifetime having our jobs, families, and indeed physical safety threatened by people such as yourself who find honesty sick. I’m thankful to have lived long enough to see both an openly gay man in such a visable position of power and to see dinosaurs such as yourself die off along with the bigotry which caused undeserved anguish to so many.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  17. Fiona says:

    I’m of two minds about this story. On the one hand, the fact that Cook is gay should elicit a response of “so what?”. His private life is his business and none of the public’s concern. But, on the other hand, given that prejudice against gay people is still so rampant in our society, to have someone like Cook as a role model serves a useful purpose of reminding people that sexual orientation is no barrier to achievement.

    We’re not at a point in our society where we’re colorblind or unconcerned about sexual orientation. It’s not simply an issue of individuals separating themselves from society, but of people defining others by race or sexual orientation. I’m not sure we can completely overcome that bias.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  18. PJ says:

    @Sam:

    When a black candidate for President gets 95% of the black vote, we have a problem.

    Black voters tend to vote for Democrats.
    1976 – 83%
    1980 – 83%
    1984 – 91%
    1988 – 89%
    1992 – 83%
    1996 – 84%
    2000 – 90%
    2004 – 88%
    2008 – 95%

    In 2008 for the first time there was a black candidate on the ballot that actually was going to win, no wonder black voters who usually votes for republicans would cross over.

    And If what you actually wrote was true, what do you think would happen if the Republicans actually would nominate a black guy? Do you actually think he would get 95% of the vote?
    If they would nominate a black candidate, I wonder what part of white Republicans would cross over and vote for the Democrat (if he was white), vote for a third party candidate, or simply stay at home…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  19. Sam says:

    @Dan:

    Screw you! I have never threatened anyone physically or verbally much less for how they identify themselves!

    Your an ignorant ahole to even accuse me of that since you do not know me.

    So you can just STFU!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  20. Sam says:

    @Dan:

    And then to accuse me of bigotry on top of it with no regard to what I typed on this page?

    I seem to think it is YOU who are the bigot against anyone who is not a homo!

    You are a heterophobe! And a vile one at that.

    With your attitude I can see why you have been threatened! Your an ahole and aholes get what they deserve.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 5

  21. Sam says:

    @Sam:

    And YES I use the term homo because with the open acceptance today of calling people teabaggers, homo is now as acceptable as short for homosexual. What is good for the goose…..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 6

  22. Sam says:

    It has gotten to the point now with people like Dan that only homos can discuss this issue because anyone they do not like is called bigot and worse.

    What a shame it has gotten to that point because of people like DAN!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 7

  23. mantis says:

    Sam’s got some serious issues with teh ghey, it would seem. It’s ok, Sam. They aren’t going to hurt you. Get over it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  24. Drew says:

    It Is News That Apple’s New CEO Is Gay?

    No.

    But the notion that Barney Frank is “super smart” is a belly laugher.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  25. James in LA says:

    @Sam, this is what you said: “It matters to those who are sick individuals who define themselves by who they prefer to have sex and relationships with. THAT is sick and twisted!”

    Now, there are a lot of pronouns in there, I’ll admit, but the gist of it seems unpleasant, and those of us who DO remember past 1980 see this non-news as the most glorious non-news news there is. This could not have happened in a still near past.

    Since you claim you were misinterpreted, please avail yourself of the opportunity to distance yourself from the claim that anyone who identifies themselves by their sexual orientation as “sick and twisted.” I don’t think you actually hold this view, based on your other comments. Please confirm that observation, if you will.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  26. Vast Variety says:

    I think Sam has thoroughly proven my point as to why we need successful gay men and women like Tim Cook as evidence that we are not “sick individuals.”

    Thanks Sam

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  27. mantis says:

    @Drew:

    But the notion that Barney Frank is “super smart” is a belly laugher.

    Would you describe any Democrat as smart, Drew?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  28. Sam says:

    @mantis:

    No, just issues with aholes like you and Dan who make baseless accusations against others.

    THAT IS SICK AND TWISTED!

    You prove my point above too!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  29. Sam says:

    Bottom line? The radical homos would rather make baseless accusations than to allow others their own beliefs. Dan must be one of the least “tolerant” out there it seems.

    Tolerance Dan is not a one way street!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  30. mantis says:

    No, just issues with aholes like you and Dan who make baseless accusations against others.

    What baseless accusation did I make?

    You prove my point above too!

    You had a point?

    The radical homos would rather make baseless accusations than to allow others their own beliefs.

    How is anyone disallowing you your beliefs, exactly?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  31. Dan says:

    Sam, bigots call people homos. Keep digging, you’re almost out of sight.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  32. James in LA says:

    @Sam: Ah, “radical homos.” Too bad. You were given every opportunity, you can’t claim you weren’t. Does Mr. Cook qualify as a “radical homo?” What makes a homo “radical” in your mind, Sam? Are there homos you like and those you don’t?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  33. Sam says:

    @Dan:

    Bigots call others teabaggers too.

    homo is short for homosexual and is perfectly acceptable in todays rhetoric.

    It may surprise YOU BIGOTS, I am also a homo. Just not a radical BIGOTED ONE like you all seem to be.

    I guess I would be called a teabagger homo!

    If you don’t like the term, suck it up and be a man.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  34. James in LA says:

    @Sam: Aha! The bottom of the rabbit hole is now in sight! All we need to complete the trip is this: what makes a homo radical? You have stamped your foot and asserted your testicles, now tell us: what dread line does one cross from a perfectly acceptable homo such as yourself, and one that is radical?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  35. Rob in CT says:

    Blaming gay people for “defin[ing] themselves by who they prefer to have sex and relationships with” (setting aside whether gay people do that) is as absurd as blaming black people for (supposedly) defining themselves by the color of their skin (which Sam is apparently upset about too).

    Earth to Sam: gay people didn’t start that shit, any more than black people started white supremacy.

    In both cases, other people (whites/heteros) made freaking laws that designated blacks/gays as less than full citizens. Slavery, the “black codes”, “Jim Crow,” sodomy laws, DOMA…

    I mean, damn, I almost don’t even know where to start with you, your view is so historically blinkered.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  36. Dan says:

    @Sam: Still a bigot, just a gay one (also a not very bright one if he doesn’t understand how much he owes those radical homosexual pioneers. Definitely a young one since he has no concept of how bad it was. Ungratefull, well I’ll let that one fly, since ignorance can blind a man to all he should be thankfull for).

    But most likely just a troll in nee

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  37. Dan says:

    @Sam: Still a bigot, just a gay one (also a not very bright one if he doesn’t understand how much he owes those radical homosexual pioneers. Definitely a young one since he has no concept of how bad it was. Ungratefull, well I’ll let that one fly, since ignorance can blind a man to all he should be thankfull for).

    But most likely just a troll in need of a good English teacher.

    Though I’ll admit he’s probably years ahead of me when it comes to message posting.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  38. Vast Variety says:

    @Sam: I think you have just exhausted any credibility you may have had when you joined in the conversation.

    Isn’t the anonymity of the Internet fun.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  39. Hello World! says:

    @Sam: Wow…that gave me a laugh! YOU define gays by sexual proclivities, I define them by who they love. This is why Cooks story matters.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  40. sam says:

    I want y’all to know that it ain’t me, babe.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  41. sam says:

    @Sam:

    It may surprise YOU BIGOTS, I am also a homo. Just not a radical BIGOTED ONE like you all seem to be.

    We all seem to be radical bigoted homos?

    Heh. Reminds me of this from The Bird Cage:

    “Whatever I am, he made me! I was adorable once, young and full of hope. And now look at me! I’m this short, fat, insecure, middle-aged THING! ”

    “I made you short?”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  42. Ben Wolf says:

    @sam: Might be a good idea to consider a change of pseudonym.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  43. sam says:

    Yeah, but godammit, I was here first. Still, mayhaps you’re right if this bozo continues to comment.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  44. anjin-san says:

    @anti-Sam
    If you are say, 13 or younger and you are using the expression “homo”, well we can write it off to the folly of youth. Are you 13 or younger? If not, you should get to a local tattoo parlor ASAP and have “I am an idiot” tattooed on your forehead in block letters.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  45. KansasMom says:

    @sam: Maybe you could be Samwise. The other Sam clearly doesn’t live up to that name.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  46. @sam: OriginalSam? SaneSam? Notthatothersam?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  47. @Sam:

    And in regards to AbusiveSam, I would note that stuff like the following needs to be toned down:

    And YES I use the term homo because with the open acceptance today of calling people teabaggers, homo is now as acceptable as short for homosexual. What is good for the goose…..

    Please take note, as the use of abusive language can result in posts being deleted or a commenters being banned (at a minimum, your tit for tat logic is quite childish). It is possible to disagree whilst not being disagreeable.

    (And lest there be any confusion, I qualify as part of “management” so this is not some random observation). Please take note.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  48. samwide says:

    @KansasMom:

    “samwise” would invite snark from certain quarters. Now, ‘samwide‘, while still a snark magnet, would have the virtue of verisimilitude and would contain Whitmanian echoes…so, “samwide” I will be.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0