CNBC Host Hobbs Sticks Foot In Mouth On Air, Claiming Apple CEO Host Is ‘Openly Gay’

Things took a turn for the awkward when a CNBC host accidentally "outed" Apple CEO Tim Cook as being openly gay. It occurred during a discussion on gay CEOs in which Jim Stewart, a columnist for The New York Times, visited the set of "Squawk on the Street" to discuss his upcoming column on John Browne, the former CEO of BP and the first CEO of a Fortune 500 company to publicly acknowledge being gay.

During the discussion, Stewart says he was surprised that sexual orientation was still an issue that seems to trump financial performance when it comes to evaluating CEOs. Of the "many" gay CEOs he reached out to, he says he received an "extremely cool reception" and that not a single one gave permission for their names to be used.

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That's when the talk took an unexpected turn.

"I think Tim Cook is fairly open about the fact he's gay at the head of Apple', isn't he?" the show's co-host Simon Hobbs asked. In the ensuing silence, a pin dropping to the floor would have sounded like a boulder crashing through a glass structure.

"Oh, dear, was than error? I thought he was open about it," Hobbs said, thereby breaking the uncomfortable silence he created.

"No," Stewart answered. "I don't want to comment on anybody who might or might not be. I'm not going to out anybody. I called a lot of people and no one at any major company would allow their names to be used."

Whether or not Cook is gay, he's never publicly declared one way or the other. He is, however, a supporter of gay rights. He once delivered a speech at the U.N. on gay rights and racism, and earlier this month he applauded the White House's decision to ban LGBT discrimination at Federal contractors.