America's most testosterone-fueled news channel just had itself a little chat about gay CEOs. It went about as smoothly as you might expect.
New York Times columnist Jim Stewart was on CNBC Friday morning discussing the mystery of why chief executives in Corporate America aren't outing themselves left and right. He has a new column -- with the very New York Timesy headline "Among Gay CEOs, The Pressure To Conform" -- about former BP CEO John Browne, who has only discussed his own sexuality after retirement.
Stewart, who is openly gay, expressed surprise that none of the gay CEOs he talked to for the column -- and there are many, apparently -- were willing to go on the record about their experience.
At which point CNBC anchor Simon Hobbs interjected:
"I think Tim Cook is fairly open about the fact that he is gay at the head of Apple, isn't he?"
There followed approximately four seconds of utter silence -- an eternity in television time -- while the other four people on the set each looked like they might have pooped their pants just a little bit.
(If you're pressed for time, you can fast-forward to about the 47th second of the video to hear Hobbs start his comment.)
When they were able to express themselves again, they could do so only in guttural tones rather than coherent thoughts:
"Mmmmmmm, no," intoned Stewart.
"Ohhhhh dear," said Hobbs. "Was that an error?"
"Wow!" said CNBC reporter David Faber. "I think you just... yeah."
All the while, Stewart's head was on a greased swivel of disapproval:
Turns out, funny story, Cook has not been open at all about his sexuality, or much of anything else in his private life for that matter, perhaps because what the hell difference does it make?
People point to a December speech, when Cook said, "I have seen and have experienced many types of discrimination, and all of them were rooted in the fear of people that were different than the majority.”
Which is not quite the same thing as saying, "Hey, America, guess what, I'm gay!" And Cook was also talking in that speech about cross-burning and racial discrimination he saw growing up in the South.
Cook has publicly advocated -- including in the op-ed pages of The Wall Street Journal, of all places -- for an end to workplace discrimination based on sexual identity. But that is evidence only of common sense, not sexuality.
"I don't want to comment about anybody who might or might not be, because... I-I'm not gonna out anybody," Stewart said on CNBC, when he had recovered.
And that was pretty much the end of the most-awkward segment ever on CNBC, after which everybody immediately resumed shouting loudly about stock prices and the Federal Reserve and Obamacare, or whatever it is they're always mad about. At least, I assume that's what happened -- like everybody else in America, I usually watch CNBC with the sound off.